Saturday, July 2, 2011

Images from Canada Day Celebrations - Homily at Sacred Heart-Anniversary Mass

Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus—July 1, 2011

[Texts : Deuteronomy 7.6-11; Psalm 103 (102); 1 John 4.7-16; Matthew 11.25-30]

Two quotes give us an idea of the essential role that Blessed Pope John Paul II saw for the Sacred Heart in the new evangelization and in the building of the civilization of love:

“For evangelization today the Heart of Christ must be recognized as the heart of the Church: it is he who calls us to conversion, to reconciliation... It is he who enables us to adhere to the Good News and to accept the promise of eternal life.  It is he who sends us out on mission.  The heart-to-heart with Jesus broadens the human heart on a global scale.” (Homily at the Canonization Mass of St. Claude La
Colombiere, May 31, 1992).   
In a letter to Father General Peter-Hans Kolvenbach at Paray-le-Monial, the site of the Sacred Heart’s revelations to St. Margaret Mary Alococque, he observed:
“In the Heart of Christ the human heart comes to know the true and only meaning of life and destiny, to understand the value of an authentically Christian life, to protect itself from certain perversions, to unite filial love for God with love for the neighbor.  In this way—and this is the true meaning of the reparation demanded by the Heart of the Saviour—on the ruins accumulated through hatred and violence, can be built the civilization of love so greatly desired, the kingdom of the Heart of Christ.”
Promoting devotion to the Sacred Heart is a mission Jesuits have received from the popes.  Father General Pedro Arrupe went so far as to say that a sign of the renewal of the Society would be its commitment to this mission, a revival of our personal and communal devotion to Jesus and to His love symbolized by His Heart. 

This is why I wished to link the Archdiocese of Ottawa’s observance of the 400th anniversary of the Society of Jesus’ arrival in Canada and of my Golden Jubilee as a Jesuit this year with this Solemnity.
Four hundred years ago in January 1611, two priests set out from Dieppe, France for the fledgling colony of New France to begin a new effort at evangelization.  Buffeted by winds their ship sailed to Cornwall in England, was blown toward the Azores then to the coast of Labrador, making landfall at the port of Canso on Cape Breton Island before finally reaching its destination at Port Royal on May 22nd. It had taken them four months to make a journey we can make in less than half a day!
Fathers Ennemond Massé and Pierre Biard gave praise and thanks to God at the altar of the Lord. The fact that their ship was called “La Grace de Dieu” led Father Biard in letters to his superior general in Rome, his provincial in France and a final public letter for publication in what would become the “Jesuit Relations” to speak of how many times they had had to be grateful to God for the providential graces of surviving their voyage, the guidance they had taken from the stars to their destination and for countless other blessings.
Following first vows, Guelph, 1964
My setting out from home as a 17-year old high school graduate on August 13, 1961 had none of the drama of the voyage of Biard and Masse, but there were tears of loss on the overnight train and the experience of joy which came with the morning, a joy that, with a few exceptions, has remained a constant in my life.
My Jesuit journey has been one long story of union with our Lord, familial feeling for his Blessed Mother and foster-father St. Joseph and growing familiarity with the saints (the Jesuit ones, naturally enough, but so many others too)—with the household of the faith [readers of my blog will not be surprised about this!] It has been a blessing, too, to know the varieties of Christian expression beyond Catholicism in the ecumenical adventure as well as the encounter with other believers, particularly of the Jewish community.  As a bishop, I have also met many others of good will whose faith (or lack of it) has sometimes been known, at other times unknown to me.
Two years after arriving in Canada Fathers Massé and Biard were captured by the British and expelled from their mission field. For Biard, that would be the end of his association with Canada. Massé, however, would be involved in two further missionary voyages, returning to Canada with Jean de Brébeuf and the mission superior Charles Lalement in 1625; being expelled by the British a second time in 1629; and returning a third and final time with Brébeuf in 1633. Massé, who was nicknamed “Père Utile”, helped establish in 1637 the first Jesuit school—in some way the start of Catholic education in Canada—at Sillery, Québec, where he died in 1646.
Priests who belong to the Society or “Company” of Jesus are called to live on the frontiers and on the cusp of new eras, as Biard and Massé did, as we are all called to do at the present threshold of a dynamic effort at evangelization that is new its ardour, methods and expression. 
The Scriptures featured in this year’s feast speak to us of the compassion of the heart of Christ for all who struggle with the burdens of life in a secularized world where the values of our faith seem often to be rejected, attacked and, even worse, ignored.
And yet, we are not without comfort, for we give our burdens over to him and take on ourselves in exchange his gentle, easy yoke guided by loving obedience to the Father in all things. For indeed, God has first loved us—each of us individually—as he loved Israel, not because of any inherent beauty, power or prestige of theirs, or ours, but rather for their opposites—each one’s poverty of spirit, each one’s need of the divine favour.  Wonderfully, and because God first loved us, we too can love, truly love, in return.
The wounded side of Christ and the image of His heart mentioned in the feast day preface are graphic bodily images of the personal love God has shown to each believer.
To enter the Heart of Christ is to know the depths of his love.  And this knowledge, like fire, cannot be contained it must spread.
In their zeal for the Kingdom, Jesuits are called to be ready to move on, or to wait, to return and to stay, but in every circumstance to proclaim, “not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake”.
In this jubilee year, I have been going back in my mind’s eye to the places where I have been called to study or to serve: to Guelph and Westchester County, New York for early formation and study; to Montreal to teach at my alma mater, Loyola High School; to Toronto for theological and graduate studies; to Halifax, Toronto and Regina to teach Scripture; and since 1995 to Toronto, Halifax again, and latterly Ottawa as a successor to the apostles. Oh, and there were also sabbatical year-long postings in Rome and Jerusalem!
Throughout these years, I have known the support of family and friends, the great family of the Society of Jesus, other religious communities of religious men and women, the company of bishops and the lay faithful.
Often, especially since becoming a bishop, I have felt carried by the prayers and encouragement of so many, rooted in the rock-solid foundation of friendship with Our Lord Jesus, the tender forgiveness of the Heavenly Father and the gentle promptings of the Holy Spirit.
And so, today, I say thank you, Lord, and renew my desire that all this be to God's greater glory.

Non nobis, Domine, non nobis: not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your Name give the glory!”



  1. Congratulations Archbishop on the occasion of celebrating your Golden Jubilee as a Jesuit. The sharing of your personal witness is inspiring and restorative. Your intentions will be lifted high throughout this special year also marking the 400th anniversary of the Society of Jesus’ arrival in Canada. Praise be to God the animator of your tireless and faithful service!

  2. What ever happened to cinctures and amices??