Friday, August 31, 2012

St. Aidan, Bishop of Lindisfarne - Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO): National Staff & Board Meetings

Today the Church in England and elsewhere observes the memorial of St. Aidan, Bishop of Lindisfarne.  Aidan was an Irishman, possibly born in Connacht,  a monk at the monastery on the Island of Iona in Scotland.

Aidan was of Irish descent and a monk of Iona. He had a reputation of being a gentle but effective missionary in the English kingdom of Northumbria. He founded the monastery of Lindisfarne.

From Iona: Aidan was of Irish descent and a monk of Iona. During the struggles for the kingship of Northumbria, two sons of the king found refuge in Iona. When the younger of these Oswald eventually became king in 634, he invited the monks of Iona to send a mission to evangelise Northumbria.

A simple message: The first monk from Iona who came, Colmán, was combative in temperament. He dismissed the people as "obstinate and barbarous" and in less than a year went back to Iona. Aidan, who was sent on a second mission the following year, felt Colmán had been too harsh, and decided on simpler approach.

Aidan became firm friends with King Oswald, whom he had known in Iona. Aidan also used Oswald, who had become bilingual during his time on Iona, as his interpreter and soon became bilingual himself, bringing the gospel everywhere he went, to rich and poor alike. He had the great missionary virtues of patience and openness to everyone he met.

Monastery and school: Aidan founded a monastery and school for twelve young boys on the island of Lindisfarne. It was within sight of the King's castle at Bamburgh. Two of his disciples, Cedd and Chad, later became missionaries and brought Celtic Christianity into Mercia, the Midlands area of present-day England. When Oswald died in 642, Aidan received continued support from King Oswin of Deira and the two became close friends.

Encouraged St Hilda of Whitby: Aidan also encouraged women in the religious life and was friend and spiritual director to the abbess Hilda at Whitby. This was a monastery in the Celtic style, with men and women living separately in small houses, but worshipping together in church.

Death and burial: Strongly opposed to slavery, Aidan spent much time and effort in ransoming slaves and sending them home. When he died at Bamburgh Castle in 651, his body was taken back to Iona for burial. Bede in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People portrays him with the virtues that were also his own: a teacher with a passionate love of goodness, tempered with humility, warmth and gentleness. [Patrick Duffy,].

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O loving God, who called your servant Aidan from the peace of a cloister to re-establish the Christian mission in northern England, and gave him the gifts of gentleness, simplicity, and strength: grant that we, following his example, may use what you have given us for the relief of human need, and may persevere in commending the saving Gospel of our Redeemer Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

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On Friday of last week, I hosted the members of the Board of CCO for a reception on the patio at my residence and a supper in the dining-room. It marked the final meeting of Simon Kyne (top right in photo above) and of myself as members of the board. Simon had been on for two years longer than I but it was quite a challenge for him to come from his more recent home in San Diego to our annual meetings.  Simon retains his strong support of this evangelizing movement and I will retain associations as episcopal advisor.

During the meal there were several speeches and presentations, including one by CCO co-founder Andre Regnier presenting his book on the missionary nature of the Church (Catholic Missionary Identity, available from CCO at a cost of $10 each).

The next day--Saturday--we travelled a short distance to Ashbury College, where the CCO staff were wrapping up their week-long their National Staff Gathering in preparation for the upcoming pastoral and academic activities year. 

The Board under the direction of Board Chair Jim Meuse and CCO President Jeff Lockert, met separately, but we came together for Mass in the theatre complex and for meals.  I was not able to attend the closing day ceremonies on Sunday because of other obligations in Montreal. Herewith some photos of the various happenings I did take part in: 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sunday 22B: "True Religion" - Blessed Cardinal Alfredo Schuster

Burgos Cathedral, Spain: Peter's Vision at Joppa that all foods are clean

Twenty-second Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year “B”) - September 2, 2012

[Deuteronomy 4.1-2, 6-8 [Psalm 15]; James 1.17-18, 21-22, 27; Mark 7.1-8, 14-15, 21-23]

In the early church, the disciples of Jesus struggled for several decades with the issue of whether and under what conditions Gentiles might become participants in God's covenant. Those Jews who had been and still considered themselves members of the faith community of Israel asked themselves whether the Gentiles who came to believe in Jesus had to become observers of the Jewish religious and dietary rules. In effect, the question was whether the Gentiles had to become Jews before becoming Christian.

Were Gentile converts to be told that they had to be circumcised? Did converts to faith in Christ have to follow Jewish food laws? Were those dietary prescriptions distinguishing kosher (permitted) and non-kosher (forbidden) foods still in effect? These were some of the issues that concerned the apostles and elders gathered at the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 14.27-15.35; cf. Galatians 2.1-21).

The passage from which today's gospel reading is taken addresses some of the underlying issues, but does so in a rather polemical way. Still the matter is settled for Mark and his community and, as we shall see, has been done rather decisively!

By contrast, when we come to the end of Matthew's account of this controversy (15.1-20), the resolution of the matter seems far less decisive.

For his part, Luke drops the matter entirely within the sequence of his gospel narrative, preferring to recount instead, in Acts 10.9-16, the story of a dream had by Peter that serves to communicate the same truth.

Three times Peter was told that “what God has made clean, you must not call profane” (10.15). Since the Gentile Cornelius and his companions had come knocking on his door at the very same moment, Peter grasped that God's cleansing of all foods (through the death of Jesus, we assume) implied the admission of the Gentiles to the community of believers without demanding of them circumcision or ritual and dietary observances (Acts 10.17-11.18).

As the conclusion to the controversy in Mark, Jesus articulated the startling truth that, “there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile”. Next, the disciples again enter the house (in Mark, the place where Jesus gives them private instruction) and ask Jesus to explain his puzzling statement.

First, Jesus expressed surprise that the disciples had not understood His parabolic saying (“do you also fail to understand?”). We will see this motif recur in subsequent weeks as the disciples' incomprehension becomes a pervasive leitmotif.

Then Jesus helped them see the import of his dictum, that “whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer”. After this rather crude biological account of what happens to the food that humans eat, Mark observed “thus he declared all foods clean”.

This abolition of the distinction between clean and unclean foodstuffs radically redefined one of the main distinguishing marks of Jewish. Dietary laws severely limited the contacts Jews could have with those outside Israel. By annulling these, Jesus moved the spotlight onto sinful desires that sully the human heart.

The thirteen vices Jesus mentioned spell out the “evil intentions” lurking in hearts (the place where humans take decisions). It is a sad commentary on what humans are capable of. Other such lists are found in the New Testament (e.g. Romans 1.29-31; Galatians 5.19-21; 1 Timothy 1.9-12; 2 Timothy 3.2-5) and in contemporary Jewish-Hellenistic literature.

Meditating on these vices (and their opposite virtues) points us to what true religion ought to be. So too does reflection on the message of Psalm 15, which offers believers the characteristics of a person called to live in God's presence.

The qualities enumerated are both positive, to “walk blamelessly, and do what is right, and speak the truth from the heart...”, and negative, not to “slander with their tongue”.

The psalmist's instructions may be generic, to “do no evil to...friends”, or specific, to “stand by their oath even to their hurt”...and not to “take a bribe against the innocent”.

As a prophet of social justice in the early church, James listed some typical examples of “pure and undefiled” religious practice: “to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world”.

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One of the heroic bishops of the twentieth century was the man who died on this day in 1954, Blessed Alfredo Ludovico Luigi Schuster, whose feast day is observed in some places today. 

Schuster was born in Rome of Bavarian immigrants on January 18, 1880. At 11 years of age, he entered the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Paul outside the Walls taking the name Ildefonso in 1896; he professed solemn vows in 1902. Philosophy studies were done at Sant'Anselmo and theology was studied at Saint Paul's where he was ordained a priest on March 19, 1904.

Service to the monastic way of life, besides the daily opus Dei (the praying of the Divine Office), included scholarship, the role of novice master for 8 years, prior of the monastery for 2 years, procurator of the Cassinese Congregation of the Benedictine monks for 12 years and abbot-ordinary of Saint Paul outside the Walls from 1918 until 1929. He was President of the Pontifical Oriental Institute from 1919 to 1922.

On June 26, 1929, Pope Pius XI nominated him the Archbishop of Milan and two weeks later created him a cardinal on July 15. In 1933, the Order of Malta honored Schuster with the Grand Cross for his service to the Church.

Beginning his ministry, in his own words as "errand boy" of the Ambrosian Church, he gave priority to catechesis and promoted the role of the laity in the parish and in Catholic Action.

He was the first Italian Bishop, following the Concordat, to swear allegiance to the King. He denounced Fascist interference in Catholic Action. Later, he refused to solemnly bless Milan Central Station, obliging both the King and Mussolini to be absent from its inauguration. He condemned the racial laws in 1938: "A kind of heresy has been born in foreign countries which is spreading everywhere ... it is called racism". He championed the cause of the poor during the Second World War and after it founded the Domus Ambrosiana, inexpensive housing for newly-married couples.

He closely followed the growth of the Catholic University, founded the Institute of Ambrosian Chant and Sacred Music and the Ambrosianeum and Didascaleion cultural centres. He also blessed the Mary Immaculate Institute for priests, and contributed articles to the daily, L'Italia. Above all, he proposed holiness as a goal for all, and the only means to human happiness.

A few days before he died, he withdrew to Venegono Seminary. His last, moving words were to the seminarians: "You want something to remember me by. All I can leave you is an invitation to holiness...". He died on August 30, 1954. 

In 1957, Cardinal Giovanni Montini --later Pope Paul VI-- introduced Schuster's cause for canonization. It is said that upon opening Schuster tomb on January 28, 1985, his didy was found incorrrupt; he was beatified on May 12, 1996 by Pope John Paul II.

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Almighty God, who through your grace, the Blessed Alfredo Ildefonso, by his exemplary virtue built up the flock entrusted to him, grant that we, under the guidance of the Gospel, may follow his teaching and walk in sureness of life, until we come to see you face to face in your eternal kingdom.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Beheading of St. John the Baptist - Sixth Archbishop of Moncton Begins His Ministry

The Church, having celebrated the earthly birthday of St. John the Baptist on June 24, today honours the anniversary of his martyrdom.

Besides Our Lord and Our Lady, St. John the Baptist is the only one whose birth and death are thus celebrated.

Today's Gospel relates the circumstances of his execution. He had the courage to blame Herod to his face for the scandal of his illegal union with his sister-in-law Herodias, whose husband was still alive.

Herodias contrived to make Herod imprison him and took advantage of an unexpected oppportunity to obtain through her daughter Salome the beheading of the saint. (

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O God, who willed that Saint John the Baptist should go ahead of your Son both in his birth and in his death, grant that, as he died a Martyr for truth and justice, we, too, may fight hard for the confession of what you teach. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

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Regrettably, other commitments preclude my taking part in the installation ceremony for the new Roman Catholic Archbishop of Moncton, Most Reverend Valéry Vienneau, which will take place at the Our Lady of the Assumption Cathedral this evening at 7:00 p.m.  In October 2002, I attended his episcopal ordination in Bathurst.  

Today, incidentally, marks the 30th anniversary of Archbishop Vienneau’s priestly ordination in Moncton in 1982. So, Happy Anniversary, Your Grace, and Best Wishes for a long and fruitful ministry in this diocese which is so significant for the Acadian faithful! Ad multos et faustissimos annos!

Prior to this appointment, Archbishop Vienneau, 64, served as Bishop of the Diocese of Bathurst. With this new appointment, he becomes the sixth archbishop of Moncton since the establishment of the archdiocese in 1936, succeeding Archbishop André Richard, c.s.c., who is retiring as required by the Code of Canon Law which states that a bishop must retire at the age of 75.

Archbishop Richard held office over a 10-year period. A number of guests are expected to join the local Christian community for this celebration. Among these are the Most Reverend Pedro López Quintana, Apostolic Nuncio to Canada, as well as bishops, priests, and religious from across Canada.

Archbishop Vienneau is a native of Cap-Pelé, New Brunswick. He served in a number of parishes in the archdiocese before being appointed vicar general in 1997. He holds bachelor's degrees in Arts (1968) and in Education (1971) from the Université de Moncton. He held a teaching position in public schools for nine years before pursuing studies in theology at the Dominican College in Ottawa, where he received a master's degree in Theology in 1987.

Archbishop Vienneau also taught religious science courses at the Université de Moncton. He is presently a member of the Episcopal Commission on Liturgy and the Sacraments for the francophone sector of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB).

The Archdiocese of Moncton is made up of 56 parishes and missions. The population of 110,895 catholics is serviced by 41 priests, 16 community priests, 249 religious, a permanent deacon as well as 84 pastoral agents. There are also two seminarians.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Memorial of St. Augustine - Couples for Christ Visit, Singles for Christ Meet at Carleton University

St. Augustine of Hippo

Augustine Aurelius was born on November 13, 354, in Tagaste, North Africa. His father was a pagan, his mother, St. Monica. Still unbaptized and burning for knowledge, he came under the influence of the Manicheans, which caused his mother intense sorrow. He left Africa for Rome, deceiving his mother, who was ever anxious to be near him. She prayed and wept. A bishop consoled her by observing that a son of so many tears would never be lost. Yet the evil spirit drove him constantly deeper into moral degeneracy, capitalizing on his leaning toward pride and stubbornness. Grace was playing a waiting game; there still was time, and the greater the depths into which the evil spirit plunged its fledgling, the stronger would be the reaction.

Augustine recognized this vacuum; he saw how the human heart is created with a great abyss; the earthly satisfactions that can be thrown into it are no more than a handful of stones that hardly cover the bottom. And in that moment grace was able to break through: Restless is the heart until it rests in God.

The tears of his mother, the sanctity of Milan's Bishop Ambrose, the book of St. Anthony the hermit, and the sacred Scriptures wrought his conversion, which was sealed by baptism on Easter night 387. Augustine's mother went to Milan with joy and witnessed her son's baptism. It was what it should have been, the greatest event of his life, his conversion — metanoia. Grace had conquered. Augustine accompanied his mother to Ostia, where she died. She was eager to die, for now she had given birth to her son for the second time.

In 388 he returned to Tagaste, where he lived a common life with his friends. In 391 he was ordained priest at Hippo, in 394 made coadjutor to bishop Valerius, and then from 396 to 430 bishop of Hippo.

Augustine, numbered among the four great Doctors of the Western Church, possessed one of the most penetrating minds of ancient Christendom. He was the most important Platonist of patristic times, the Church's most influential theologian, especially with regard to clarifying the dogmas of the Trinity, grace, and the Church. He was a great speaker, a prolific writer, a saint with an inexhaustible spirituality.

His Confessions, a book appreciated in every age, describes a notable portion of his life (until 400), his errors, his battles, his profound religious observations. Famous too is his work The City of God, a worthy memorial to his genius, a philosophy of history. Most edifying are his homilies, especially those on the psalms and on the Gospel of St. John.

Augustine's episcopal life was filled with mighty battles against heretics, over all of whom he triumphed. His most illustrious victory was that over Pelagius, who denied the necessity of grace; from this encounter he earned the surname "Doctor of grace." As an emblem Christian art accords him a burning heart to symbolize the ardent love of God which permeates all his writings. He is the founder of canonical life in common; therefore Augustinian monks and the Hermits of St. Augustine honor him as their spiritual father. [Excerpted from Pius Parsch, The Church's Year of Grace]

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Renew in your Church, we pray, O Lord, that spirit with which you endowed your Bishop Saint Augustine that, filled with the same spirit, we may thirst for you, the sole fount of true wisdom, and seek you, the author of heavenly love. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever

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On Friday, Feast of St. Bartholomew the Apostle, I received a visit from the executive leadership (above) of Couples for Christ in Canada (from across the country) as they were attending the assembly of Canada's Singles for Christ, meeting over the weekend at Carleton University (Southam Auditorium).

This movement of Couples who invite Christ to be at the heart of their marriages and family life, started in the Philippines some thirty years ago with twelve couples and now embraces more than a million members worldwide.

Some three hundred members of Singles for Christ took part in the opening Mass I concelebrated with Father Pedro Arana of Assumption Church in Vanier.  After Mass, I posed for a photo with some of the Ottawa delegates (in blue tee-shirts).

Monday, August 27, 2012

Memorial of St. Monica, Widow - Celebrating with the Queenship of Mary Community in Metcalfe

Death of St. Monica

St. Monica

St. Monica is an example of those holy matrons of the ancient Church who proved very influential in their own quiet way. Through prayer and tears she gave the great Augustine to the Church of God, and thereby earned for herself a place of honor in the history of God's kingdom on earth.

The Confessions of St. Augustine provide certain biographical details. Born of Christian parents about the year 331 at Tagaste in Africa, Monica was reared under the strict supervision of an elderly nurse who had likewise reared her father. In the course of time she was given in marriage to a pagan named Patricius. Besides other faults, he possessed a very irascible nature; it was in this school of suffering that Monica learned patience. It was her custom to wait until his anger had cooled; only then did she give a kindly remonstrance. Evil-minded servants had prejudiced her mother-in-law against her, but Monica mastered the situation by kindness and sympathy.

Her marriage was blessed with three children: Navigius, Perpetua, who later became a nun, and Augustine, her problem child. According to the custom of the day, baptism was not administered to infants soon after birth. It was as an adolescent that Augustine became a catechumen, but possibly through a premonition of his future sinful life, Monica postponed his baptism even when her son desired it during a severe illness.

When Augustine was nineteen years old, his father Patricius died; by patience and prayer Monica had obtained the conversion of her husband.

The youthful Augustine caused his mother untold worry by indulging in every type of sin and dissipation. As a last resort after all her tears and entreaties had proved fruitless, she forbade him entrance to her home; but after a vision she received him back again. In her sorrow a certain bishop consoled her: "Don't worry, it is impossible that a son of so many tears should be lost."

When Augustine was planning his journey to Rome, Monica wished to accompany him. He outwitted her, however, and had already embarked when she arrived at the docks. Later she followed him to Milan, ever growing in her attachment to God. St. Ambrose held her in high esteem, and congratulated Augustine on having such a mother.

At Milan she prepared the way for her son's conversion. Finally the moment came when her tears of sorrow changed to tears of joy. Augustine was baptized. And her lifework was completed. She died in her fifty-sixth year, as she was returning to Africa. The description of her death is one of the most beautiful passages in her son's famous "Confessions." (Excerpted from Pius Parsch, The Church's Year of Grace)

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O God, who console the sorrowful and who mercifully accepted the motherly tears of Saint Monica for the conversion of her son Augustine, grant us, through the intercession of them both, that we may bitterly regret our sins and find the grace of your pardon. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

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On Wednesday, the memorial of the Queenship of Mary, I travelled south of the city to Metcalfe to bless the newly-refurbished convent that the Queenship of Mary community has recently acquired.

The evening's structure was rather simple: a light supper shared by the members with several priests and me in their dining room, the blessing of the house and chapel, through the kindness of Pastor Father Anthony Hannon, Mass at St. Catherine of Siena Parish Church, with numerous parishioners taking part, joined by friends and benefactors.

Following Mass, we processed with the Blessed Sacrament through the streets for the 750 meters distance to the convent (with a police escort).  A modest and crowded reception followed in the convent.  Some other photos:

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sunday 26B: "Lord, To Whom Shall We Go?" - New Pastor at St. Joseph's Parish, Orleans

O God, who cause the minds of the faithful to unite in a single purpose, grant your people to love what you command and to desire what you promise, that, amid the uncertainties of this world, our hearts may be fixed on that place where true gladness is found. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

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Today's photos feature abbe Maurice Dionne's installation last Sunday as Pastor of St. Joseph's Parish in Orleans.  He is assisted by Abbe Apollinaire and several deacons.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

OM: St. Joseph Calasanz - Installation of Abbe Maurice Dionne as Pastor at Notre-Dame-des-Champs, Navan

St. Joseph Calasanz

St. Joseph is the founder of the Poor Clerks Regular (Piarists), a community devoted to the task of educating youth. At an early age Joseph loved to care for children; he gathered them together, conducted religion classes in boyish fashion, and taught them how to pray.

After a time of severe illness he was ordained a priest. His zeal found expression as he organized the Order of the Poor Clerks Regular of the Mother of God of the Pious Schools and directed the members in the instruction and rearing of children from poor parents.

While residing in Rome, Joseph endeavored to visit the seven principal churches of that city almost every evening, and also to honor the graves of the Roman martyrs. During one of the city's repeated plagues a holy rivalry existed between him and St. Camillus in aiding the sick and in personally carrying away for burial the bodies of those who had been stricken.

On account of his heroic patience and fortitude in the midst of trouble and persecution, he was called a marvel of Christian courage, a second Job. When eighty years old, he was led as a criminal through the streets of Rome by the Inquisition. His life is a consoling example of how God permits misunderstandings and opposition, even from ecclesiastics, to harass noble undertakings.

At the time of his death his Order had almost been destroyed. Then, however, it again began to flourish. [Excerpted from Pius Parsch, The Church's Year of Grace]

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O God, who adorned the Priest Saint Joseph Calasanz with such charity and patience that he labored tirelessly to educate children and endow them with every virtue, grant, we pray, that we, who venerate him as a teacher of wisdom, may constantly imitate him, for he was a co-worker of your truth. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever

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Last Sunday, I presided at the installation of abbe Maurice Dionne as pastor of two parishes, the tiny Notre Dame des Champs in Navan and the large urban parish of St. Joseph, Orleans.  Herewith some photos of the first ceremony.  Tomorrow, some pix from Orleans. (Photos courtesy Marc Lapointe)