The Eucharist—Our Weekly Encounter with the Risen Lord

transfiguration1The season of Lent is that time in the Church year when the baptized are called to prepare to renew their baptismal promises, and when those who are not baptized enter into the final stages of their baptismal preparation. As we are to prepare to do this throughout Lent on Easter Sunday, today I would like to speak a little bit about what is one of my favorite themes in the Liturgy for Baptism by making particular reference to the Ritual for the Baptism of Infants. Continue reading

Lent – The Season of Vocational Awareness and for the Renewal of Baptismal Promises

lentThis coming Wednesday, March 1st is an important day in the life of our Church. It is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the forty day season of preparation for the celebration of Easter. For that reason, I would like to speak a little bit about Lent and its importance in the spiritual life of each one of us.

In the history of the Church, Lent began as that season when the Catechumens who were preparing for baptism would enter into their final stages of preparation before being baptized at Easter. In the first few centuries of the Church’s history, many adults prepared to be baptized at the Easter Vigil. However, as by the ninth and tenth centuries most adults were baptized, Lent became a season not just for baptism but also for the repentance of those Christians who were already baptized and would prepare for the renewal of their baptismal promises at Easter. This is also now what the majority of us are called to do in the approaching season of Lent. Because most of us are already baptized, Lent is a time for us to prepare to renew our baptismal promises by turning away from what prevents us from living our baptisms and being the people that God has called each one of us to be as a result of our baptisms. At Easter, our community will celebrate the baptisms of those joining the Church at Easter, but each one of us is also called to renew our baptismal promises at the Easter Sunday Mass that we will attend this year. For that reason, I would like to say just a few words about what it means for each of us to be baptized. Continue reading

If You Wish To Be Blessed, Cling To The Lord At All Times

BlessedAfter His teaching of the Great Christian prayer, the Our Father, the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount which we hear in today’s Gospel are probably among Jesus’s most famous and important teachings. Perhaps the only other teaching of similar importance would be the Great Commandment that Christ has given, that we must love the Lord our God above all things and our neighbour as ourselves. These three teachings are intimately connected as the fundamental teachings for the followers of Jesus. Continue reading

Called to Speak for the Lord

silence-1Martin Scorsese’s powerful film Silence presents the moving story of Jesuit priests Sebastian Rodrigues and Francisco Garupe. Set in the seventeenth century, the movie presents the story of these two Portuguese Jesuits and their search for their spiritual father, Jesuit priest Father Cristovao Ferreira. Father Ferreira had been sent to Japan as a missionary for the Christian faith. After he had spent some time there, word comes back to the Jesuits that Father Ferreira had fallen into apostasy, the sin of denying the faith. Father Sebastian and Father Francisco, his two devoted students, cannot believe that their spiritual father could possibly fall into apostasy and insist that the story of his fall is only a rumour or a malicious slander. They beg to go to Japan to discover the truth or to save their friend. At first their religious superior is dead set against them going on this dangerous mission. However they insist on going to find the truth or to save their friend. As their superior becomes convinced that their desire to go has been placed in their heart by the Holy Spirit, they are given permission and set out on their great mission. Continue reading

Salvation is for All!

wise_menAt the time of Christ’s birth, there were only three continents known to exist among those who lived in the Mediterranean world; these were Africa, Asia and Europe. The early Church tradition regarded the three Wise Men as coming one from each of these continents. They represented the people from all over the known world at that time coming to acknowledge Christ as King and Saviour. The word “Epiphany,” which is the name of the Solemnity which we celebrate this Sunday, means “manifestation” and it refers to the manifestation of God’s love for all people in the birth of Christ. Continue reading

Christmas 2016

WWT“He it is who gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for Himself a people of His own who are zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:14—Midnight Mass)

Every Monday evening, during the winter months, our parish community hosts a meal for those who would not otherwise be able to have a meal through a program called the Winter Welcome Table. This is a project that involves probably over a hundred volunteers throughout the course of the year. Many of those who help with the Winter Welcome Table do not even stay around to see those who come for the meal. Some volunteers might simply come in on Monday morning and help set-up. This past Monday, the Winter Welcome Table hosted its annual Christmas dinner. I cannot describe what a beautiful event this was. Our community had been preparing for this event for several weeks. Many in our community donated Christmas gifts to be given to the men and women who come to this meal. Those who donated these gifts often never see the people to whom they are given. Sister Gabriel visited our school and organized for the students to donate presents and to make handmade Christmas placemats for those who attend our dinner. For several weeks before the dinner was served, volunteers arranged for enough turkeys to feed the many who would gather. On the actual night of the Christmas dinner over forty volunteers were involved with cooking the meal, preparing for the event and serving the 140 individuals who came to enjoy this meal. What struck me, and many of the people who attended this meal, about this evening was the joy that was expressed by all who attended. The volunteers were so happy to be hosting this event and were overjoyed to be able to offer something to those who might otherwise not be able to have a Christmas dinner. Each meal that came out of the kitchen was prepared with loving attention, as if for a family member. Those who were attending the meal were truly moved by the fact that people cared enough to offer them a meal and a Christmas present. Many of the regular attendees were and are on a first name basis with the volunteers. For me, the parish’s Winter Welcome Table is a beautiful statement of our parish’s belief that because Jesus has come into the world, we are all of us brothers and sisters in Christ, called to give back to the Lord in service to our brothers and sisters in need, as a way of expressing thanksgiving for God’s boundless generosity in saving us through His Son. Continue reading

May the Lord Come In, He is King of Glory!

communion with GodThe Bible starts and ends with two beautiful stories about God’s communion with the human person. At the beginning of the Bible, in the Book of Genesis, there is a beautiful story about the creation of the world and the manner in which humanity lived in communion with God in the Garden of Eden. At this time, the human person is described as almost being at one with God as God walks in their midst and humans fear nothing in God’s presence. They enjoy intimate communion together . The Bible ends with the beautiful image of Heaven which is presented in the Book of Revelation. Again, here, redeemed humanity is presented as living in communion with God for all eternity at the Heavenly banquet. Those who are admitted to this banquet, will praise God with his saints and angels and know His love for all eternity. Some, who have been admitted to the Heavenly banquet, have gained their admission through their perseverance and conviction that God is with them in their trails and difficulties of life. Continue reading

“The Day of the Lord is NOW”

y2kEach year, the priests of the Archdiocese of Toronto go on retreat together in the month of May. These retreats used to take place at St. Augustine’s seminary in Scarborough. I can remember well an experience that I had there when I was on retreat in May of 1999. After one of the talks I went out for a walk. While out on my walk I ran into one of the other priests who was on retreat. As we walked along Kingston Road, this priest began to tell me with great certainty about his conviction that the world was going to end in 2000. He quoted many of the news stories of the time and emphasized the expected collapse of the computer systems that control all of the daily aspects of society’s life with the approach of the new year and the expected glitch for the year 2000. For him there was no doubt that the end was near. I was actually a little concerned about the amount of joy that he seemed to take in thinking about the impending chaos. As we walked along Kingston Road and got to the intersection of Kingston Road and Midland Avenue, my companion who was so caught up in his description of the end of the world, stepped out into the intersection in front of a quickly moving car. He was so caught up in his view of the way the world was going to end, that he was not paying any attention to what was happening to him in the present moment. After I pulled him back from the approaching car, I remember saying that if he did not watch for God in the present, he might not live to see the end of the world, which he seemed to be so excited about. He had such a strong conviction about the way that world was going to end, that he almost missed the fact that he was about to meet God in a completely different manner if he did not stay awake and keep his eyes on the present. Continue reading

The Beginning of Holiness is Humility

Slide1When I finished my second year at McMaster University, I found that while I was having a great deal of fun in university, I was a very unhappy person. There seemed to be something missing from my life. For this reason, I went looking for some kind of meaning in my life. To find it, I spent a summer at a Cistercian Monastery that used to by near Orangeville, Ontario in Hockley Heights. There I met a man who would become a type of spiritual mentor for me. His name was Father Canisius Stemmler. At the time I went to Orangeville in the mid 1980’s, Father Canisius was already in his 80’s. Despite his old age, he had only been a monk at that time for about 35 years. The reason for this was that he had been a Jesuit for many years before he had entered the Cistercians. His varied past meant that he was a man of great spiritual learning, formed in both Jesuit spirituality and that of the Cistercian tradition. For most of the summer, I was assigned to work in the garden with Father Canisius and help to make the Christmas cakes that supported the monastery. It was probably the most educational summer that I ever had in my life. While working beside him for the summer, we would talk about almost every subject under the sun. It was as though I was given the privilege of constant spiritual direct for the whole summer. Continue reading

Only One Returned to Give Thanks, and He was a Foreigner

thanksgiving-clip-art-craftsThanksgiving is a North American holiday. If I remember my school lessons correctly, it derives from the experience of the first European settlers here in North America and their experience of their first few years here on this continent. The way we were taught about this holiday when I was in elementary school recalled how difficult these first Europeans found the bitter winter to survive on their own and how unprepared they were to make it through this difficult climate. They were so unprepared for the conditions they found on this continent that it was only with the help of the Indigenous People who knew the land and the ways of growing here that they were able to make it through those initial days. Once they had learned to grow crops in this territory and figure out how to survive the conditions on this continent, they were so grateful that they began to have a special feast called “Thanksgiving” at the end of the growing season to celebrate the goods of this land and the great opportunities that they had discovered here. From my school days, I recall a part of those initial Thanksgiving celebrations involved celebrations with the Indigenous People who had helped these first settlers to make their lives possible here. That is why so many of our celebrations still highlight the many vegetables and local products that were handed over to the Europeans by the Indigenous People to help them survive. Continue reading