Monday, January 31, 2011

St. John Bosco

"In his life the supernatural became the natural and the extraordinary the ordinary." So spoke Pope Pius XI of the beloved Don Bosco, renowned for his educational pioneering and his affectionate care for the fatherless. Born Giovanni Melchior Bosco in 1815, the future saint was the youngest son of a peasant farmer in the hamlet of Becchi, in the Piedmont district of north Italy. He lost his father at the age of two and was brought up by a devoted and industrious mother, Margaret Bosco, who had a hard struggle maintaining the home and the three children, all of them boys. A dream that little Giovanni had at the age of nine revealed to him his vocation. He seemed to be surrounded by a mob of fighting and swearing children whom he tried in vain to pacify, at first by arguments and then by hitting them. Suddenly there appeared a mysterious woman who said: "Softly, softly . . . if you wish to win them! Take your shepherd's staff and lead them to pasture." Even as she spoke, the children were transformed first into wild beasts and then into gentle lambs. From that time on, the boy thought, it was his clear duty to lead and help other boys.

He began with those of his own village, teaching them the Catechism and bringing them to church. As an inducement, he would amuse them first with acrobatic and conjuring tricks, at which he became very clever. One Sunday morning when an itinerant juggler and gymnast was holding the children spellbound by his performance, young John challenged him to a competition and beat him at his own tricks. Then he marched off to church, followed by his admiring audience. It was more or less by chance that this talented boy learned to read. He was staying with an aunt who was servant to the priest, and when the priest was told of John's ambition, he taught him gladly. But John didn't want to stop with reading and writing; he wished to study for the priesthood. Many difficulties had to be overcome before he could even begin his preliminary studies. When, at sixteen, he entered the seminary at Chieri, he was so poor that money for his maintenance and his clothes had to be supplied by charity. The village mayor contributed a hat, one friendly person gave him a cloak, and another a pair of shoes. People were eager to help a boy who was himself so eager and ambitious. After his ordination as deacon, he attended the theological school at nearby Turin, finding time to continue his volunteer work with homeless or neglected boys. Having won the approbation of his superiors for what he was doing, he began to gather around him regularly on Sunday afternoons a band of these waifs and young apprentices.

After taking Holy Orders, his first appointment was assistant chaplain of a home for girls, founded by the Marchesa Barolo, a wealthy and philanthropic woman. This post left Don Bosco free on Sundays to devote himself to his group of boys. He set up for them a sort of combined Sunday School and recreation center on grounds belonging to the Marchesa, which he called "the festive Oratory." But the Marchesa quickly withdrew her permission, because the boys were, naturally, noisy and unruly, and sometimes even made so bold as to pick the flowers in the garden. For more than a year the group was regarded as a nuisance and sent from pillar to post. No property owner was able to put up with them for long. When at last Don Bosco was able to hire an old shed as a meeting place, and the future seemed promising, the Marchesa delivered herself of an ultimatum. He must choose between giving up the boys—who now numbered several hundred—or resigning his post at the girl's orphanage. Don Bosco promptly resigned, to devote himself wholly to the boys.

In the midst of these anxieties, he was prostrated by a severe attack of pneumonia that came near ending his life. As soon as he had recovered, he went to live in some poor rooms adjoining a new Oratory, or gathering place, with his mother as housekeeper. For ten years this good woman served as his adjutant and loyal helper, extending her motherly care over all the waifs and strays her son brought to her. Don Bosco now applied himself to consolidating his work and planning for the years to come. A night school which had been opened the previous year took shape, and as the Oratory was soon overcrowded, he opened two more youth centers in other parts of Turin. About the same time he began housing a few destitute boys. His next step was to build for his flock a small church which he placed under the patronage of his favorite saint, Francis de Sales. With that completed, he started to build a home for his steadily growing family. No one knew just how he managed to raise the money for these various projects, but his natural persuasiveness had much to do with it.

Those enrolled as boarders in the school were of two sorts: young apprentices and craftsmen, and other youths of more than average intelligence in whom Don Bosco discerned future helpers, with, possibly, vocations to the priesthood. At first they attended classes outside, but, as more teachers were enlisted, academic and technical courses were given at the house. By 1856 a hundred and fifty boys were in residence; there were four workshops, including a printing shop, and four Latin classes, with ten young priests as instructors; all this in addition to the oratories with their five hundred children. He cultivated in all of them a taste for music, and he was a believer in the therapeutic value of play. Don Bosco's understanding of young people, their needs, and their dreams, gave him great influence. He could manage them without punishment. "I do not remember to have used formal punishment," he wrote, "and with God's grace I have always obtained-and from apparently hopeless children-not alone what duty exacted but what my wish simply expressed." With an approach that seems quite modern, he planned programs that combined play, song, study, prayer, and manual work. He knew that straight academic learning was not enough. "Knowledge gives more power in the exercise of good or evil," he said, "but alone it is an indifferent weapon, lacking guidance."

Don Bosco's outgoing personality made him popular as a preacher, and there were many demands on his time to speak to various congregations. As a third form of activity, in the few hours that remained to him, he wrote useful and popular books for boys. In that day there was almost no attractive reading matter written especially for young people, and Don Bosco set himself to fill this need. He wrote stories based on history, and sometimes popular treatises on the faith. Often he toiled far into the night, until, in later life, his failing eyesight compelled him to give up writing.

A plan for some sort of religious order, to carry on the work when he had passed away, had long been in Don Bosco's mind, and at last he felt he had the strong nucleus of helpers that was required. "On the night of January 26, 1854, we were assembled in Don Bosco's room," writes one of the men present. "Besides Don Bosco, there were Cagliero, Rocchetti, Artiglia, and Rua. It was suggested that with God's help we should enter upon a period of practical works of charity to help our neighbors. At the close of the period, we might bind ourselves by a promise which could subsequently be transformed into a vow. From that evening, the name of Salesian was given to all who embarked on that form of apostolate." The name of course honored the great bishop of Geneva, St. Francis de Sales. It was not a propitious time for launching a new order, for in all its history Piedmont had never been so anti-clerical. The Jesuits and the Sisters of the Sacred Heart had been expelled, many convents suppressed, and laws were being passed curtailing the rights of religious orders. The statesman Urbano Rattazzi, one of those most responsible for the anti-clerical legislation, was deeply interested in popular education. As a resident of Turin, Rattazzi was familiar with Father John's activities, and, on meeting him by chance one day, urged him to found a society to further his valuable work, promising the support of the government.

The project grew, and in 1858 John went to Rome, taking with him the rules of the institution. From Pope Pius IX he received preliminary approbation. Sixteen years later he obtained full sanction, together with permission to present candidates for Holy Orders. The new society grew rapidly. Within five years there were thirty-nine Salesians; at the time of the founder's death there were eight hundred, and by 1929 the number had increased to about eight thousand. One of Father John's dreams was realized when he sent his first missionaries to the bleak and faraway land of Patagonia; other areas of South America were soon the scene of missionary endeavor. He lived to see twenty-six houses started in the New World and thirty-eight in the Old.

His next great work was the foundation in 1862 of an order of women to do for poor girls what the Salesians were doing for boys. The original group consisted of twenty-seven young women to whom he gave the name of Daughters of St. Mary Auxiliatrix, the Helper. The organization now numbers many thousands, with elementary schools in Italy, Brazil, and Argentina. To supplement the work of these two congregations, Father John organized his outside lay helpers into a new kind of Third Order, which he called Salesian Cooperators. They were men and women of all classes who pledged themselves to assist in practical ways the educational labors of the Salesians.

Any account of the life of this saint would be incomplete without some mention of his achievements as a builder of churches. His first little church of St. Francis de Sales soon proved inadequate, and he undertook the construction of a much larger building. This he finished in 1868, dedicating it to St. Mary the Helper. Later he found means to put up another spacious and much-needed church in a poor quarter of Turin, and this he placed under the patronage of St. John the Evangelist. But the immense effort of money-raising had left Don Bosco weary and depleted. He was not allowed time to recover his strength before another task was put before him. During the last years of Pope Pius IX, a project had been formed of building at Rome a church in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and Pius himself had donated money to buy the site. His successor, Leo XIII, was eager for the work to be carried forward, but there was difficulty in raising funds. It was suggested to the Pope that this was something that Don Bosco did better than anyone else, and when he was asked to undertake it, he accepted the challenge.

After obtaining a considerable sum in Italy, Don Bosco went to France, where devotion to the cult of the Sacred Heart was particularly intense at this time. He was successful in his appeals, money came flowing in, and the early completion of the church was assured. As the day appointed for its consecration drew near, he was sometimes heard to murmur that if there were any delay, he would not live to witness it. Two years before the doctors had said that this generous-hearted man had worn himself out and that complete retirement offered the only chance of prolonging his life. Don Bosco had the joy of living a few months beyond the consecration of the church, which took place on May 14, 1887. He said one Mass before the new high altar.

Later in the year it became plain that his days were numbered; he gradually weakened, and on the morning of January 31, 1888, he died in his home city of Turin. Forty thousand persons came to the church to do honor to Don Bosco, and the entire city turned out as his remains were borne to their resting place. His memory was cherished and his work carried on by his followers. Not many years had elapsed before a movement was begun for his beatification. He was declared Venerable by Pope Pius X in 1907, beatified by Pius XI in 1929, and canonized by him in 1934. Don Bosco exemplified a new trend in the treatment of children, anticipating in some respects the practices of modern psychologists. Intuitively he knew that the loving care and attention of a wise, interested adult was essential to the healthy growth of every child, and he gave his very best to those children who had the least.

(taken from EWTN)

O God, who raised up the Priest Saint John Bosco as a father and teacher of the young, grant we pray, that, aflame with the same fire of love, we may seek out souls and serve you alone.  Through our Lord.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Pastoral letter to young people on chastity.

CCCB – Ottawa, January 25, 2011 The Commission for Doctrine of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) released today a pastoral letter to young people on chastity.

“Chastity is a very real challenge, particularly for young people in our country today. We want to assure those young people who are struggling to live a life of chastity that their bishops stand prayerfully with them and are there to support and encourage them,” said Commission Chairman Archbishop J. Michael Miller, C.S.B., of Vancouver. “I am certain that young people striving to be faithful to the Gospel are not afraid of a challenging and authentic love. It is the only kind that ultimately gives true joy!” he added.

In its pastoral letter, the Commission recommended that young people surround themselves with friends who also want to live in a chaste manner. It is also pointed to the importance of prayer, the practice of confession, and receiving spiritual guidance.

According to the letter, chastity is an offering of oneself in response to God’s gift in Jesus Christ. This echoes the words of Pope Benedict XVI at his papal inauguration: “If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. . . . I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return.”

The launch of the pastoral letter is being assisted by Salt + Light Television with a video production. The letter can be downloaded freely from Printed copies can be ordered from the CCCB Publications service at The video production can be viewed here.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) is the national assembly of the Bishops of Canada. It was founded in 1943 and officially recognized by the Holy See in 1948. After the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), the CCCB became part of a worldwide network of Episcopal Conferences, established in 1965 as an integral part of the life of the Universal Church.

For the next several days, the retreat arrangements (Domus Galilaeae) will not allow me internet access, so I will resume contact when I get to Rome (the beginning of February).

Domus Galilaeae was founded by the Neo-Catechumenal Way, a movement established in the 1960s to lead people to understand Christianity the way the first Christians did, as adults.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Memorial of Saint Thomas Aquinas - Confirmations in Rockland

The Glory of St. Thomas Aquinas by Benozzo Gozzoli (1421-1497),  Louvre

O God, who made St. Thomas Aquinas outstanding in his zeal for holiness and his study of sacred doctrine, grant us, we pray, that we may understand what he taught, and imitate what he accomplished.  Through our Lord.

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Prayers by St. Thomas Aquinas

Almighty and ever-living God, I approach the sacrament of your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. I come sick to the doctor of life, unclean to the fountain of mercy, blind to the radiance of eternal light, and poor and needy to the Lord of heaven and earth. Lord, in your great generosity, heal my sickness, wash away my defilement, enlighten my blindness, enrich my poverty, and clothe my nakedness.

May I receive the bread of angels, the King of kings and Lord of lords, with humble reverence, with the purity and faith, the repentance and love, and the determined purpose that will help to bring me to salvation. May I receive the sacrament of the Lord's Body and Blood, and its reality and power.

Kind God, may I receive the Body of your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, born from the womb of the Virgin Mary, and so be received into His mystical Body and numbered among his members. Loving Father, as on my earthly pilgrimage I now receive your beloved Son, under the veil of a sacrament, may I one day see Him Face to face in glory, who lives and reigns with You for ever. Amen.

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Lord, Father all-powerful and ever-living God, I thank You, for even though I am a sinner, your unprofitable servant, not because of my worth but in the kindness of your mercy, You have fed me with the precious Body and Blood of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. I pray that this Holy Communion may not bring me condemnation and punishment but forgiveness and salvation.

May It be a helmet of faith and a shield of good will. May It purify me from evil ways and put an end to my evil passions. May It bring me charity and patience, humility and obedience, and growth in the power to do good.

May It be my strong defense against all my enemies, visible and invisible, and the perfect calming of all my evil impulses, bodily and spiritual. May It unite me more closely to You, the one true God, and lead me safely through death to everlasting happiness with You.

And I pray that You will lead me, a sinner, to the banquet where You, with your Son and Holy Spirit, are true and perfect light, total fulfillment, everlasting joy, gladness without end, and perfect happiness to your saints. Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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C'est une tres belle eglise, veritablement un tresor.  Samedi apres-midi, j'ai preside deux celebrations de la Confirmation pour les jeunes de cette paroisse. 

Quelques photos:

Currently at the Neocatechumenal Bishops' Convivence in Israel. Pictures will be posted in the upcoming week.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

St. Angela Merici

Saint Angela was an ordinary, yet extraordinary woman. Through her contemplative stance toward life, Angela saw the needs of the world and responded to them.

Over 465 years ago, The Company of Saint Ursula came together in Brescia, Italy, under the leadership of this remarkable, visionary laywoman who was the first to found a non-cloistered women’s community devoted to ministry among the people.

The first 28 members lived with their families and dedicated themselves to serve God and the needy around them, particularly women. Angela chose to name her foundation after Saint Ursula, an early martyr venerated as a patron of education and youth.

The Company grew quickly, crossing national boundaries and even oceans as the educational needs of the Church required. Today Ursuline Sisters minister on six continents.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Saints Timothy and Titus, Bishops - Travel to the Holy Land

Icon of St. Paul ordaining St. Titus

Saints Timothy and Titus were two of the most beloved and trusted disciples of St. Paul, whom they accompanied in many of his journeys.

St. Timothy has been regarded by some as the "angel of the church of Ephesus", Rev 2:1-17.

According to the ancient Roman martyrology he died Bishop of Ephesus. The Bollandists (Jan. 24) give two lives of St. Timothy, one ascribed to Polycrates (an early Bishop of Ephesus, and a contemporary of St. Irenæus) and the other by Metaphrastes, which is merely an expansion of the former. The first states that during the Neronian persecution St. John arrived at Ephesus, where he lived with St. Timothy until he was exiled to Patmos under Domitian.

Timothy, who was unmarried, continued Bishop of Ephesus until, when he was over eighty years of age, he was mortally beaten by the pagans. According to early tradition Titus continued after St. Paul's death as Archbishop of Crete, and died there when he was over ninety.

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O God, who adorned Saints Timothy and Titus with apostolic virtues, grant, through the intercession of them both, that, living justly and devoutly in this present age, we may merit to reach our heavenly homeland.  Through our Lord.

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These days, I am journeying overseas to take part in a special gathering of bishops in the Holy Land, sponsored by the Neo-Catechumenal Way (January 27-31). 

Then I will travel to Rome for meetings (February 2-4). Readers of this blog will be remembered in the Holy Places; please keep me and my confreres in your thoughts and prayers.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle - A Visit to the Lads of Frassati House

The Apostle St. Paul’s entire life can be explained in terms of one experience—his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus.

In an instant, he saw that all the zeal of his dynamic personality was being wasted, like the strength of a boxer swinging wildly.

Perhaps he had never seen Jesus, who was only a few years older. But he had acquired a zealot’s hatred of all Jesus stood for, as he began to harass the Church: “...entering house after house and dragging out men and women, he handed them over for imprisonment” (Acts 8:3b).

Now he himself was “entered,” possessed, all his energy harnessed to one goal—being a slave of Christ in the ministry of reconciliation, an instrument to help others experience the one Savior.

One sentence determined his theology: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:5b).

Jesus was mysteriously identified with people—the loving group of people Saul had been running down like criminals. Jesus, he saw, was the mysterious fulfillment of all he had been blindly pursuing.

From then on, his only work was to “present everyone perfect in Christ. For this I labor and struggle, in accord with the exercise of his power working within me” (Colossians 1:28b-29).

“For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and [with] much conviction” (1 Thessalonians 1:5a).

Paul’s life became a tireless proclaiming and living out of the message of the cross: Christians die baptismally to sin and are buried with Christ; they are dead to all that is sinful and unredeemed in the world.

They are made into a new creation, already sharing Christ’s victory and someday to rise from the dead like him.

Through this risen Christ the Father pours out the Spirit on them, making them completely new.

So Paul’s great message to the world was: You are saved entirely by God, not by anything you can do. Saving faith is the gift of total, free, personal and loving commitment to Christ, a commitment that then bears fruit in more “works” than the Law could ever contemplate.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians 13:4-7).

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O God, who taught the whole world through the preaching of the blessed Apostle Paul, draw us, we pray, nearer to you through the example of him whose conversion we celebrate today, and so make us witnesses to your truth in the world. Through our Lord.

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Last week, I dropped in on the four men who share Ottawa's Frassati House (left to right below: Luc, Matt, Dustin and Jeremy) for Mass and a delightful conversation over supper afterwards.

We had salad, home-made stew and ice cream topped off with some of their stash of Madonna House Maple syrup that they shared with their visitor.


Monday, January 24, 2011

St. Francis de Sales, Bishop & Doctor of the Church - 45e Journée mondiale des communications sociales

St. Francis de Sales: His ardent love of God and souls, his great kindliness, rare wisdom and sure teaching made St. Francis exceptionally influential in bringing about conversions and in guiding souls in the spiritual life.

He won back to the faith more than 70,000 heretics, thus restoring to the Church a great part of the Chablais, which had been ravaged by Protestantism.

He was St. Jane de Chantal's spiritual director, and with her founded the Order of the Visitation. He is the author of Treatise on the Love of God and Introduction to the Devout Life. St. Francis died at Lyons in 1622.

Francis was born on August 21, 1567, and ordained to the priesthood in 1593. From 1594 to 1598 he labored at the difficult and dangerous task of preaching to the Protestants of Chablais; in 1602 he became bishop of Geneva.

His zeal for souls is attested in 21,000 extant letters and 4,000 sermons which exemplify how he applied St. Paul's words: "I have become all things to all men."

You may epitomize his character in two words, kindliness and lovableness — virtues that were the secret of his success. His writings reflect his kindheartedness and sweet disposition.

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Most widely known is the saint's Introduction to the Devout Life, which, with the Imitation of Christ, is rightly considered the finest outline of Christian perfection.

Francis' Introduction proves to the world that true piety makes persons amiable, lovable and happy. A renowned and holy friendship existed between him and St. Frances de Chantal. In cooperation with her he founded the Visitation Nuns in 1610.

Out of love for his own poor diocese, he refused opportunities for advancement, including the cardinalate. In recognition of the Introduction and his other writings, Francis has been declared a doctor of the Church.

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How Francis developed a gentle and amiable disposition is a story in itself; he was not born a saint. By nature his temperament was choleric, fiery; little was needed to throw him into a state of violent anger. It took years before he mastered his impatience, his unruly temper.

Even after he became bishop, there were slips, as for instance, when someone rang a bell before he had finished preaching. The important point, of course, is that by constant perseverance he did in time attain perfect self-mastery. Wherein lies a lesson. [Excerpted from Pius Parsch, The Church's Year of Grace.]

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O God, who for the salvation of souls willed that the Bishop Saint Francis de Sales become all things to all, grant graciously that, following his example, we may always display the gentleness of your charity in the service of our neighbour. Through our Lord.

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Message du Pape Benoît XVI,
pour la 45e Journée mondiale des communications sociales
qui sera célébrée le 5 juin 2011.

Le message est intitulé
« Vérité, annonce et authenticité de vie à l’ère du numérique ».
Voici quelques extraits; le texte complet est disponible au site web du Vatican (
Dans le monde numérique, transmettre des informations signifie toujours plus souvent les introduire dans un réseau social, où la connaissance est partagée dans le contexte d'échanges personnels. La claire distinction entre producteur et consommateur de l'information est relativisée et la communication tendrait à être non seulement un échange de données, mais toujours plus encore un partage.

Cette dynamique a contribué à une appréciation renouvelée de la communication, considérée avant tout comme dialogue, échange, solidarité et création de relations positives. D'autre part, cela se heurte à certaines limites typiques de la communication numérique : la partialité de l'interaction, la tendance à communiquer seulement quelques aspects de son monde intérieur, le risque de tomber dans une sorte de construction de l'image de soi qui peut conduire à l'auto complaisance.

Surtout les jeunes vivent ce changement de la communication, avec toutes les angoisses, les contradictions et la créativité propre à ceux qui s'ouvrent avec enthousiasme et curiosité aux nouvelles expériences de la vie. L'implication toujours majeure dans l'arène numérique publique, celle créée par ce qu'on appelle les social network, conduit à établir des nouvelles formes de relations interpersonnelles, influence la perception de soi et pose donc, inévitablement, la question non seulement de l'honnêteté de l'agir personnel, mais aussi de l'authenticité de l'être.

La présence dans ces espaces virtuels peut être le signe d'une recherche authentique de rencontre personnelle avec l'autre si l'on est attentif à en éviter les dangers, ceux de se réfugier dans une sorte de monde parallèle, ou l'addiction au monde virtuel. Dans la recherche de partage, d'"amitiés", on se trouve face au défi d'être authentique, fidèle à soi-même, sans céder à l'illusion de construire artificiellement son "profil" public.

Les nouvelles technologies permettent aux personnes de se rencontrer au-delà des frontières de l'espace et des cultures, inaugurant ainsi un tout nouveau monde d'amitiés potentielles. Ceci est une grande opportunité, mais comporte également une attention plus grande et une prise de conscience par rapport aux risques possibles.

Qui est mon "prochain" dans ce nouveau monde? N'y a-t-il pas le danger d'être moins présent à ceux que nous rencontrons dans notre vie quotidienne ordinaire? N'y a-t-il pas le risque d'être plus distrait, parce que notre attention est fragmentée et absorbée dans un monde "différent" de celui dans lequel nous vivons? Avons-nous le temps d'opérer un discernement critique sur nos choix et de nourrir des rapports humains qui soient vraiment profonds et durables? Il est important de se rappeler toujours que le contact virtuel ne peut pas et ne doit pas se substituer au contact humain direct avec les personnes à tous les niveaux de notre vie.

Même dans l'ère numérique, chacun est placé face à la nécessité d'être une personne sincère et réfléchie. Du reste, les dynamiques des social network montrent qu'une personne est toujours impliquée dans ce qu'elle communique. Lorsque les personnes s'échangent des informations, déjà elles partagent d'elles-mêmes, leur vision du monde, leurs espoirs, leurs idéaux.

Il en résulte qu'il existe un style chrétien de présence également dans le monde numérique : il se concrétise dans une forme de communication honnête et ouverte, responsable et respectueuse de l'autre. Communiquer l'Évangile à travers les nouveaux media signifie non seulement insérer des contenus ouvertement religieux dans les plates-formes des divers moyens, mais aussi témoigner avec cohérence, dans son profil numérique et dans la manière de communiquer, choix, préférences, jugements qui soient profondément cohérents avec l'Évangile, même lorsqu'on n'en parle pas explicitement.

Du reste, même dans le monde numérique il ne peut y avoir d'annonce d'un message sans un cohérent témoignage de la part de qui l'annonce. Dans les nouveaux contextes et avec les nouvelles formes d'expression, le chrétien est encore une fois appelé à offrir une réponse à qui demande raison de l'espoir qui est en lui (cf. 1P 3,15).

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday, the Lord's Day - Apostolic Letter of Pope John Paul II, His Beatification

The Lord's Day — as Sunday was called from Apostolic times— has always been accorded special attention in the history of the Church because of its close connection with the very core of the Christian mystery.

In fact, in the weekly reckoning of time Sunday recalls the day of Christ's Resurrection.

It is Easter which returns week by week, celebrating Christ's victory over sin and death, the fulfilment in him of the first creation and the dawn of "the new creation" (cf. 2 Cor 5:17).

It is the day which recalls in grateful adoration the world's first day and looks forward in active hope to "the last day", when Christ will come in glory (cf. Acts 1:11; 1 Th 4:13-17) and all things will be made new (cf. Rev 21:5).--Dies Domini, July 5, 1998, #1

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The Coming Beatification of Pope John Paul II on May 1, 2011

Like many others Canadian bishops I was happy to hear the news of the beatification of Pope John Paul II on Divine Mercy Sunday of this year, that is May 1.

Though people have asked whether I plan to attend, I am unable to do so as on that particular day I have a full slate of activities: Confirmations in the morning; a Mass to celebrate with couples marking a significiant marriage milestone (60 years and more, 55, 50, 40, 25 and, even lower multiples of 5 years); and finally, in the evening, the Mass for Neophytes fully-initiated a week before at the Easter Vigil.

It was my privilege to meet the late Holy Father on several occasions, at the beginning of the 33rd Jesuit General Congregation in September 1983, at a Mass in his private chapel with friends in 1987 and then, at intervening periods as a bishop (on my nominaition in 1995, during an ad limina visit in 1999, at World Youth Day in 2002).  It was always an uplifting experience and in that sense he showed me the importance of the ministry of encouragement as key to the bishop's role in the Church and in his diocese.

Every one is agreed that Pope John Paul II left a major mark on the Church and on the world. His vision and energy were a continuation of the Second Vatican Council.

I was particularly struck by his encyclicals and other writings, though I found many of his publications abstruse.  Still his writings remain a lasting source of inspiration and teaching (Redemptor Hominis, Redemptoris Missio, Veritatis Splendor, his yearly letters to priests for Holy Thursday, etc.)

He was a visionary, which explains the world-wide impact of his magnetic personality; this has led many of us to treasure joyful memories of his spontaneity and creativity (the World Youth Days of Paris, Rome and Toronto stand out for me: my impressions there were one with the crowds he wowed.).

His tomb continues to draw large crowds each year, and the beatification will only serve to increase the spiritual good he began here on earth.  I hope I live long enough to travel to his canonization, which I doubt will take many more years.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

St. Vincent, deacon & martyr - Réouverture de Sainte-Anne (Basse Ville) - Catholic Commentary for the Year of Matthew

Almighty ever-living God, mercifully pour out your Spirit upon us, so that our hearts may possess that strong love by which the Martyr Saint Vincent triumphed over all bodily torments.  Through our Lord.

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Réouverture de l'Église Sainte Anne

Dimanche le 16 janvier, abbé Daniel Berniquez, v.e., m’a accompagné à l’Église Sainte Anne pour une messe marquant officiellement la réouverture d’un lieu de culte fermé en avril 2009 par l’effondrement du transept ouest.

Un grand nombre de fidèles était présent pour cette joyeuse occasion, suivie d’une réception simple et chaleureuse.

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Last week, I received a complementary copy of the commentary on the Gospel of Matthew in the series Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture, an interesting collaboration of Catholic scholars with an evangelical publishing house (Baker Academic).

I have been browsing through the commentary, reading parts of the commentary and delving into sidebars on evangelization, angels in the Old Testament, binding and loosing, John Paul II's words to the rich young man in Veritatis splendor, etc.  While this is the Year of Matthew, our weekday readings in the first part of the year are from Mark; we will begin to read Matthew on weekdays in mid-June through to the end of August).  After the Christmas season, this weekend we resume reading from Matthew's gospel and will do so almost continuously until Advent (end of November).

The authors are closely associated with Catholic centres of education and evangelization:

Curtis Mitch (MA, Franciscan University) is research fellow and trustee of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology in Steubenville, Ohio, and coauthor with Scott Hahn of the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible.

Edward Sri (STD, Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, Rome), provost and professor of theology and Scripture at the Augustine Institute in Denver, Colorado, is a founding leader with Curtis Martin of FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) and the author of several books on Scripture and the Catholic faith.

The series itself strives to help Catholics develop a love of Scripture and a desire to share it, which is what led me to say yes to joining the consulting editors, even if I have not been able to attend meetings at the Catholic Biblical Association conventions for the last several summers:

The Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture (CCSS) responds to the desire of Catholics to study the Bible in depth and in a way that integrates Scripture with Catholic doctrine, worship, and daily life. The series will include seventeen volumes, offering readable, informative commentary on each book of the New Testament.

The CCSS implements the theological principles taught by Vatican II for interpreting Scripture "in accord with the same Spirit by which it was written"--that is, interpreting Scripture in its canonical context and in the light of Catholic tradition and the analogy of faith (Dei Verbum 12).

The CCSS is packed with features designed to help readers use the Bible more effectively in teaching, preaching, evangelization, and other forms of ministry.

Each volume provides exegesis as well as reflection and application sections.

A set of cross-references links each passage to the Catechism, the Lectionary, and related biblical texts.

Sidebars present information on the background of the text and on how the text has been interpreted by the Church.

Abundant quotations from saints and Church Fathers enable readers to glimpse the continuity of Catholic tradition.

Each volume includes a Glossary, a list of Suggested Resources, an Index of Pastoral Topics, and an Index of Sidebars. Further resources are posted at the series Web site,

At US$21.95, the paperback volume is good value. You can read the preface and introduction to the present volume by going to the following site:

It's a perfect complement to my own reflections on the Gospels of this Year A published in Living God's Word: Reflections on the Sunday Readings for Year A (Toronto & Montreal: Novalis, 2010). 

An excerpt from it to whet your appetite for more (Mary "Pondered in Her Heart") is found in the January issue of the missalette Living with Christ, pp. 173-175.

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Friday, January 21, 2011

St. Agnes, Virgin & Martyr - and the Wool for the Archbishop's Pallium

Agnes, the daughter of a noble Roman family who had become a Christian, was martyred at the age of twelve or thirteen during a persecution of Christians when she openly declared her belief. Her name is in the Roman Canon, and in the earliest Church calendar (354 AD), her feast was assigned to January 21, on which all accounts of her death agree. Agnes was martyred in 304, in the persecution of Diocletian, or possibly earlier, in a third century persecution. According to very early accounts, her enraged persecuters attempted to burn Agnes, and when this failed, they decapitated her.

Testimony to her courageous witness was given in early accounts. An account of her martyrdom was written by Saint Ambrose (340-387) in "De Virginibus", and Pope Damasus (ca. 304-384) extolled the heroism and virtue of the young girl, reportedly telling in a poem how she bravely faced fire, concerned only that her stripped body be covered by her long hair.

The Pope also wrote an inscription to her on a marble slab, which can still be seen at the foot of the stairs leading to the sepulchre in the church built over her grave during the reign of Constantine (ca 275-337). According to the description of her martyrdom by Prudentius (348-413), as part of the persecution "the judge threatened to give over her virginity to a house of prostitution, and even executed this threat; but when a young man turned a lascivious look upon the virgin, he fell to the ground stricken with blindness...".

The church built over her tomb in the 4th Century, Sant'Agnese fuori le Mura ("Saint Agnes outside the walls), stands today -- on the Via Nomentana -- much the same as it was after it was remodeled by Pope Honorius (625-638). A mosaic in the apse of the church shows the young saint as a Byzantine empress, amid flames with a sword at her feet.

Another perhaps more famous church, Sant'Agnese in Agone, faces the Piazza Navona in Rome. Originally a 9th century oratory built over the the site of her martyrdom, a brothel in the arcades of the Circus of Domitian, also known as the Circus Agonalis, it was consecrated as a church by Pope Calixtus II on January 28, 1123. The present church was extensively remodeled in the 17th century by Rainaldi, according to plans by Borromini, and was influential in Baroque architecture. The Roman ruins of the brothel where Agnes was martyred are accessible from inside the church.

Since the early middle-ages, Saint Agnes is usually depicted holding a lamb (agnus - a pun on her name) as a symbol of her purity. At least since the 9th Century, each year on the Feast of Saint Agnes, two lambs are solemnly blessed at the church of Sant'Agnese fuori le Mura. From the wool of these lambs are made the pallium (a strip of white wool with black crosses woven into the fabric) given by the Pope to an archbishop as a sign of office.

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Almighty, everlastingGod, who choose what is weak in the world to confound the strong, mercifully grant that we who celebrate the heavenly birthday of your Martyr Saint Agnes may follow her constancy in the faith. Through our Lord.

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St. Agnes Feast and the Wool for Palliums (pallia)


This ancient feast retains a custom of blessing of the wool of two lambs brought to the pope from the Trappist Abbey of Tre Fontane.

The wool from the lambs is given to the nuns to weave the pallia. The pallia spend some time at the relics of Saint Peter below the main altar of Saint Peter's Basilica showing a special unity between the Pontiff and the archbishop.

The pallium is a white woolen band embroidered with six black crosses worn over the shoulders and has two hanging pieces, front and back.

Since the 9th century, the pallium has wider use and is worn by the pope and by metropolitan archbishops symbolizing authority and expresses the special bond of unity between the archbishop and the Roman Pontiff.

Pallia are given, upon request from by the metropolitan archbishops on the Solemnity of Saint Peter and Paul (June 29) by the pope.

The pallium is worn by the archbishop in his diocese and when necessary, in the other diocese in the ecclesiastical province (sometimes calledthe Metropolitanate) and generally was worn for significant ecclesial events like the blessing of Chrism, ordinations, consecration of altars; and, more recently, for Confirmations and Sunday Mass during Parish Visitations.

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Pope John Paul II began the tradition of distributing the pallium on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, which always falls on June 29, to emphasize the unity of bishops around the world with the successor of St. Peter.

The use of the pallium is reserved to the pope and archbishops. Worn by the pope, the pallium symbolizes the plenitude of pontifical office; worn by archbishops, it typifies their participation in the supreme pastoral power of the pope, who concedes it to them for their proper Church provinces.

The pallium is a circular band about two inches wide, worn about the neck, breast, and shoulders, and having two pendants, one hanging down in front and one behind. The pendants are about 2 inches wide and 12 inches long, and are weighted with small pieces of lead covered with black silk.

The remainder of the pallium is made of white wool, part of which is supplied by two lambs presented annually on the feast of St. Agnes, solemnly blessed, and then offered to the pope.

The ornamentation of the pallium consists of six small black crosses — one each on the breast and back, one on each shoulder, and one on each pendant. The crosses on the breast, back, and left shoulder are provided with a loop for the reception of a gold pin set with a precious stone. The pallium is worn over the chasuble.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (A): Jesus Settles in Capernaum, Galilee - St. Fabian & St. Sebastian, martyrs


Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year "A") - January 23, 2011 'United in the Same Mind and Same Purpose' [Texts: Isaiah 9:1-4 [Psalm 27]; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13; Matthew 4:12-23]

Though people idealize the early Church, Paul's letters to the Corinthians show that rivalries were a reality early on ("I belong to Paul, ... Apollos, ... Cephas, Christ").

As the chapters of Corinthians succeed one another, we discover people who thought themselves strong and enlightened. They looked down on the unenlightened others, whom they called weak. All confessed that God raised Jesus from death, but Paul felt they denied that truth by the way they lived.

Paul begged for unity, adapting Jesus' gospel message of repentance to the circumstances of the Church of Corinth. He tried to get people to see that it is unity, not division that Christ wishes for His followers. It is an apt message today, as the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity draws to a close.

Today, Catholic Christians need to pray and work not only for unity with Christians of other denominations. They need also to strive 'to be united in the same mind and same purpose' in order to reconcile partisans of one or another viewpoint within the Church.

The early chapters of Matthew's gospel show that what Jesus did--choosing the Galilean city of Capernaum as home base during His early ministry--realized Old Testament hopes. Jesus' message ("Repent for the Kingdom of heaven has come near") echoes John the Baptist's summons (cf. Matthew 3:2).

Matthew shows that, despite the different approaches of John and Jesus, there is consistency in God's message. It is a harmony of viewpoint that extends from the era of the early Church into our own day.

Still, there was something utterly new in Jesus' approach. This appears in the dynamic way He drew followers to leave possessions, trades (the boats and fishing tackle of Simon and Andrew) and family (the sons of Zebedee leave their father). Set free, these disciples entered onto the path of the Kingdom.

In Jesus' day, young people sought out rabbis to learn from them the ways of God. By contrast, Jesus--more than a rabbi, though He was a teacher--took the initiative in calling followers to the Kingdom path.

Matthew illustrated his conviction that Jesus was a leader powerful in word and deed. Furthermore, Jesus' deeds were fully consistent with the message He addressed to each man, woman or child who would become His disciples.

Matthew illustrated this by means of a summary description of Jesus' activity that he used to frame the early stages of Jesus' career (cf. Matthew 4:23; 9:35). The healings and cures were visible expressions in people's lives of God's gift to them of the Kingdom in the preaching of Jesus, a proclamation that continues today in the Church of Christ.

Zebulun, Naphtali and the Coastal Highway on the west side of the Jordan River, a region known as 'Galilee of the Gentiles', had been humiliated by the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III in 733 BC (2 Kings 15:29).

In place of this lowly state, God pledged glorification. Humiliation-glorification is only one of several pairs of contrasts intertwined within Isaiah's prophetic word. Darkness will give way to light, sadness to joy and oppression to victory.

Harvest time and the sharing of the spoils are periods of celebration. The work that went into cultivating the crop have borne fruit. The sacrifices and discipline of battle have won the victory. People deserve to relax and enjoy the peace and plenty that have come.

In salvation-history, the victory of Gideon against Midian (Judges 7:15-25) featured a small contingent battling against mighty forces. Their triumph, with soldiers from Naphtali, had become proverbial of what Israel could do with God's blessing.

It became an symbol of the victory Jesus won through His proclamation of the Kingdom and gathering the nucleus of His future Church.

Early Christians saw in Jesus the fulfilment of Isaiah's prophecy concerning Zebulun and Napthali ('the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in the land of deep darkness -- on them a light has shined').

For He embodied their light, their joy and their victory. Jesus hardly did so as the leader of a warring army triumphing over Israel's enemies. He did so by the simple gesture of settling down--as a working man--in a Galilean city and there beginning to proclaim Good News from God.

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Almighty ever-living God, direct our actions according to your good pleasure, that in the name of your beloved Son we may abound in good works.  Through our Lord.
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St. Fabian (left) and St. Sebastian, martyrs

O God, glory of your Priests, grant, we pray, that, helped by the intercession of Saint Fabian, we may advance in our sharing of the same faith as his, and in worthy service.  Through our Lord. 


Grant us, we pray, O Lord, a spirit of fortitude, so that, taught by the glorious example of your Martyr Saint Sebastian, we may learn to obey you rather than men.  Through our Lord.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Renewal of Resurrection of Our Lord Church - More Photos of the Homelands Mass

On Saturday evening, parishioners gathered at Resurrection of Our Lord Parish, directed by the Sacred Heart Fathers, for a Mass which included the rededication of the sanctuary after an updating after many years. 

Congratulations to Father Paul Tennyson and the many committees that planned, fundraised for and carried out the renewal of their parish church. A reception was held in the parish hall afterwards. 

Some photos follow:

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Further Pictures from this Sunday's
Homelands Mass/Messe multiculturelle
courtesy of Heri Riesbeck