Bishop McGrattan's homily at the Memorial Liturgy for those grieving the loss of a child through miscarriage and stillbirth, November 24, 2022 at St. Mary's Cathedral.
In the communal life of the Church the witness of faith and belief in Christ is always confirmed in the following – “Faith if it is genuine works through love”. Another way of stating this truth is that in the Christian life our faith is to be expressed through acts of love.
This evening those families who have gathered, parents, grandparents, and children are united in the painful reality that they have suffered the loss of a child through miscarriage or stillbirth. Despite this pain and grief which is shared by those here present they also witness to a communal act of love in the remembering of their children in prayer.
This is also a genuine witness of faith to the sanctity of life. That all human life from conception to natural death is a gift from God who is the Creator. He is the author of all life and in Christ we come to know and believe that through his death and resurrection we receive the gift of eternal life from God the Father. This is the hope that must also unite us in the prayer of this memorial liturgy.
In the Old Testament, the remembering in prayer of God’s salvific presence in the midst of his people was always an act of “anamnesis”. It is a spiritual remembering and an act of faith in which they experienced the very presence of God’s love. In the First Letter of John this evening we heard the sacred author reminding the early Christians of this same truth. “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are”. Other translations of this passage replace “See” with “Remember”. This evening we remember the love that the Father has given these parents through marriage. A love in which He invites husband and wife to share in His “co-creative love”, to express mutual love for each other and to be open to bringing new life, children into the world.
This vigil celebration of prayer for those children who did not receive the gift of being born into a family are still known by God as his children, like us. Although you as parents did not receive the joy of knowing your children you do share the anguish, sorrow and despair of their loss. However, in the faith that we share in being disciples of Christ, the suffering we experience now will always be transformed by Christ and that “what we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is”. This is the hope that we pray will sustain us as it did the early Christians.
In the Beatitudes Jesus teaches his disciples that despite the present circumstance of their life the future they desire will become one of blessing and happiness if they maintain their faith in Him. This is the faith that allows one to trust that the fullness of our life is revealed in Christ. This would have been the desire and the faith of these parents for the children that they have lost. To be baptized into the fullness of the life of Christ.
At the conclusion of this liturgy we incorporate the sign of light, in the lighting of a candle. Light symbolized the dispelling of darkness, and spiritually it overshadows for believers the sadness of death. The light of the paschal candle for Christians symbolizes the eternal light of the resurrection of Christ. As you come forward to light the candles for your children and their names are proclaimed, you are uniting yourselves in this communal act of love in remembering the children you mourn, but also it is a sign of your genuine faith and belief in the resurrection of Christ for your children.
We who gather support you in the loss of your children, but in faith and through our prayers, we pray that they now share in the eternal life of Christ and God the Father.
Rorate Mass is a centuries long tradition during Advent. The Masses are generally offered during Advent on Saturdays, the customary day to honour the Blessed Virgin. A Votive Mass for Mary will be offered at dawn, and lit with only candle lights.
Experience Rorate Mass in the Diocese of Calgary this year:
Children tell lots of fun stories about Santa Claus, Pere Noel, or Kriss Kringle. All of these stories remind us of how much we’re loved and of how happy we are when we give. The earliest stories we know were told about St. Nicholas, the bishop of Myra. St. Nicholas was so grateful for the life God had given him that he just couldn’t stop giving joy and hope to others—no matter how far he had to travel or how many roofs he had to climb. (Source: Loyola Press)
Over the last 3 years, the Calgary Catholic School District’s faith theme has centered on 1 Corinthians 13:13, "And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love." This year, as we focus specifically on love – agape (sacrificial and selfless love), I have also been drawn to praying for and encouraging our priests.
This past spring, I attended an online meeting for the Serra Club Calgary, an organization whose mandate is to pray for and support vocations. One of the suggestions that was offered was to write cards or letters of encouragement to both priests and seminarians. I’ve never known a seminarian, so I wasn’t sure what I could say to encourage a seminarian, but since it was close to Valentine’s Day, I had my students sign a letter to each seminarian, and again at Easter.
This school year, I wondered how I could continue to offer support and encouragement in a more meaningful and ongoing way to seminarians in our diocese, and decided that each of my eight religion classes would adopt a seminarian (one of them adopted two, since there are nine seminarians). I hoped that there would be great spiritual fruit both for the seminarian, who would be receiving prayers from 25-27 students, and for my students, who would be selflessly offering prayers for someone they did not even know. Each of my classes prays for their adopted seminarian once a week and we send him a letter once a month.
We began praying for the seminarians at the beginning of the school year and sent an introduction letter toward the end of September. In October we prayed the rosary for our seminarians. I felt that it would be good for my students to get to know the person they were praying for, if the seminarian was willing and able to answer, so in our October letter we asked some personal questions, about the seminary and being a seminarian.
The students and I were excited to begin to receive cards, letters, and emails from the seminarians, and were especially happy to find out that they wanted to come to meet us while they were on their reading break.
Many students had no idea what to expect, and they were overjoyed to meet people to whom they could relate: the seminarians like to watch movies, read, play board games, sports, and video games! The students also learned a lot about seminary life. Many were surprised to learn that there are 9 years of study to become a priest, and about the amount of time spent in prayer. The seminarians were also happy to answer the hard questions that teenagers can have about our faith.
It has been wonderful for our students to discover that seminarians are real and interesting people. Many of them are in awe of these men who are normal people with fun hobbies and a great sense of humor, and who are discerning God’s call in their lives. They have learned that selfless acts, even when done without expecting anything in return, can lead to spiritual fruit for themselves as well. They know that their prayers are appreciated and joyfully received.
With simple prayers and letters, and now classroom visits, our Lord has multiplied love and brought joy and encouragement to so many people, not just the seminarians. Perhaps in the future we will find that our Lord has fostered a vocation (or vocations) in this small act of love and kindness to others.
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“Help me!” Out of a dark bathroom in a long term care home, I heard a plaintive cry and froze. I was there to bring the Eucharist, nothing more. I turned to seek out an attendant and heard again, “Don’t leave me!” Heart pounding, I crept forward, identified myself loudly and turned on the lights to find an elderly woman on the toilet. With shaking hands I cleaned her and helped her to stand up. She leaned against me as we washed our hands. Secretly I thought, “I have wiped Christ’s bottom.”
Jesus said that whatever we do for the least of his brethren we do for him. This is true whether we cook for our family, give alms to the poor or serve at Mass. However, it might be particularly true when we are called to move out of our comfort zone and give more than we intended to. For example, when we offer to buy a street person a coffee and he chooses a whole meal with it. Or we call to check in on a friend and she spills out her woes for an hour. When we give of ourselves we prefer to have a measure of control over the experience but that is not how God gives of himself. God gave his only son, and Jesus gave his lifeblood for us. God continues to give constantly and completely, so we are called to do the same. This kind of self-emptying service is what Pope Francis called “the art of accompaniment”.
“The Church will have to initiate everyone – priests, religious and laity- into this “art of accompaniment” which teaches us to remove our sandals before the sacred ground of the other.” (Evangelii Gaudium 169)
I am coming to understand The Art of Accompaniment through a series of talks given by Fr. Tim Boyle at St. Martha’s Parish in Lethbridge . So far Fr. Boyle has noted that accompaniment is not quite the same as caregiving, although it might include that. To accompany someone is to first of all recognize that God is with them. As guest speaker Reno Guimond said, “We are not bringing God to anyone. God has been there long before we show up. We go to see where God is.” Besides recognizing God in each person, we also need to understand how God works in the world.
Fr. Boyle encouraged his listeners to imagine God “delighting” in the world as he created it. “God has invested himself in creation,” Fr. Boyle said. “This is not a one-time event but an evolving artwork. If God accompanies us as an artist not as an engineer then God is vulnerable to the unfolding of Creation… God suffers in the process… God chooses to spend himself on creation.” This form of sacrificial support was expressed ultimately by God becoming human and Jesus’ death and resurrection.
For us, sacrificial giving of ourselves is often a challenge. Society dictates that one must preserve oneself, must learn to ‘Say No’, and ration one’s time and energy. Yet Creation shows otherwise. Fr. Boyle used the examples of salmon making death runs upstream to spawn, and sunflowers drying up to produce seeds for food and for procreation. “Like salmon and sunflowers, every creature, in order to reach their full potential, needs to empty themselves out”, Fr. Boyle said. So how is this achieved in practical terms? How does one accompany another person, whether continuously or when called upon?
It begins when we accept God’s accompaniment of us. This happens through grace which Fr. Boyle suggests is “like manna – something given by God every day which cannot be stored up but only taken advantage of that day.” Grace is not a weapon or superpower, it doesn’t enhance our abilities. Indeed it requires us to first accept that we have no ability without God. We are flawed and vulnerable beings made precious by God’s acceptance. It is God’s grace that sustains us, sanctifies us. When we understand this dynamic we are better prepared to handle the vulnerability of others, to accept it, and handle it gently.
Since my first incident of extreme vulnerability in long-term care, my ministry partner and I have been called upon to assist a few others at their times of greatest need, in life and even approaching death. While I still feel my heart pounding each time, the experiences have been deeply humbling. I know God is helping me learn how to cherish the sacred ground of others.
Aid to the Church in Need (ACN Canada, Pontifical Charity) will hold its 8th annual Red Wednesday on November 16. The goal of the event is to raise awareness and to pray for persecuted Christians, who are the most discriminated against religious group in the world.
Please consider these activities with your parish, ministry, and community:
Other resources from ACN:
These days, and especially here, it's hard to imagine that people can be discriminated, or worse, persecuted because of their faith. Unfortunately, reality isn't as such. Today, across the world, 327 million Christians live in a country where there is persecution at various degrees. Because of their faith, they endure discrimination, they get scorned, they get arrested, they get incarcerated, they get tortured and sometimes they even get killed. It is estimated that 75 % of acts of violence for religious reasons are perpetrated against Christians, which makes them the most persecuted group.
Instead of getting better, the situation is getting worst year after year. Among persecutors we find governments who fear the influence of the Church and try by all means to reduce Christians to silence. This is frequent in communist or totalitarian countries. We also find other religious groups who wish to eliminate Christians in order to become the only religious group of a region.
The persecuted find strength in our prayers which accompany them and that way they don't feel abandoned from the rest of the world. Visit: https://acn-canada.org/red-wednesday/
Aside from the churches, some Catholic schools, religious communities and community organizations will show their solidarity on Wednesday. Since 2015, the Diocese of Calgary, through its partnership with Calgary Catholic Immigration Society, has sponsored over 2,263 refugees without regard for religiosity or creed. Many of these refugees have either experienced religious persecution themselves or borne witness to hatred against religious groups. See photos below.
If we could imagine a few cowboys praising the Lord with country music and coming to Mass on horseback with their best hats, faith in Alberta could not be summed up with these clichés. (Although, they are true from time to time!). So who are the believers in Alberta? In the land of cowboys and mountains, God has also pitched his tent. Now let’s zoom in on the reality of believers in a part of Western Canada.
Alberta is a "land of immigration", says Ambroise, who has been living in Calgary for a little over a year. Naturally, the young man, originally from France, was looking for a community to join when he arrived from Montreal. His goal was to find young people and a community that would connect him to his French heritage.
"I haven't been able to find the best of both worlds - people my age with whom to practice my faith or with whom to talk to about religious topics. However, I have felt a bit at home since I think that speaking one's native language allows you to really connect with yourself and your identity."
People "at Mass!"
Ambroise attends the English-speaking young adult community of St. Francis Xavier Chaplaincy, as well as the only French-speaking parish in Calgary, Sainte-Famille. These two communities are not necessarily opposed to each other, but both offer their own richness and spiritual nourishment. However, "particularly linking oneself to a parish" remains complex.
"St. Francis Xavier is quite typical of the relatively young English-speaking communities in North America - a kind of return to a certain root in the sense of a search for a connection to the “origins”, also quite intellectualized. It's a certain return to the roots where excess is removed.”
"At Sainte-Famille, it's more family-oriented. Older. There are fewer young people. There is this balance with families and a lot of interculturality and involvement of multicultural people in the life of the parish. It facilitates the integration of newcomers! I think there's a nice welcome.”
"Indeed, in the pews on Sundays, there are the Knights of Columbus, newcomers from the African community, French "expats", families from Quebec, seniors from Alberta’s French-speaking community who have been involved for 30 or 40 years and, in the midst of all these beautiful people, an Iraqi parish priest of more than ten years who belongs to the Chaldean Church. They are really beautiful people at Mass!
What strikes Ambroise most in his experience of faith in the West? "Close-knit communities! For example, Sainte-Famille is a close-knit community mainly because it is a welcoming community for French-speaking Christians. In a desire to integrate, I think that as a newcomer, you have the desire to get involved.”
He also had this impression of a "close" and tightly woven community during his visit to Lac Sainte-Anne, a well-known pilgrimage site where Pope Francis visited last summer.
Parish atmosphere connected to local life
The pastor of Sainte-Famille Parish, Monsignor Noël Farman, recently visited several classes in some French Catholic schools in Calgary to have discussions about the sacraments and faith. Some young people asked him about how one can get baptized. It was such a great opportunity to connect. In fact, it is the children from several classes who will be making the decorations for the major liturgical feasts at Sainte- Famille Parish again this year. This is something that does not occur in Quebec, but which seems to be lived organically in Alberta.
In 2003, the Conseil de l'Education de la Foi Catholique (Council of the Education of the Catholic Faith amongst Francophones) chez les francophones de l'Alberta (CÉFFA) was born out of a need for "faith education among francophones". CÉFFA offers materials in French, resources to accompany the four French-language school boards in Alberta, and, above all, "a network of collaboration, exchange and training for those involved in the dioceses, school boards, schools and parishes". All of this "in a dynamic that complements the family, school and parish plans", as stated on their website.
The Alberta church is also rolling up its sleeves to respond to the call of Pope Francis by going to the peripheries. For example, there are prayer vigils on Tuesday evenings at the L'Arche community in Calgary (and probably elsewhere).
Elizabeth House, an initiative of the Sisters of Charity of St. Louis and the Diocese of Calgary since 1996, is a home for single mothers who are pregnant or have a baby and provides a space for living and rehabilitation.
Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO) has a strong presence on Alberta university campuses, and the founding couple is originally from Alberta. In short, for many, faith echoes the spiritual and social needs of Alberta's territories and offers a venue for action and prayer.
Urban Christians, rural Christians
"I come from the area around St. Paul [two hours from Edmonton], where there is a fairly strong Francophone presence," explains Claudie-Anne, married with three children. The surrounding villages were all founded by priests who brought in French Canadians at the beginning of the last century. So the faith has shaped our countryside."
Like many places in Canada, she senses a decline in Catholic religious practice. However, Alberta does not seem to be having a "quiet revolution." "The transmission of the faith has happened without any sudden interruption." As a result, the "vast majority" of people around her believe in God, whether they are Catholics or other Christian denominations.
"I would say that the community’s faith is going to Mass on Sundays. And that's it. We have very few opportunities to share or nurture our faith. We still manage, but sometimes we feel alone as young people holding the dual Francophone-Catholic identity." In addition, she and her husband are involved in various parish services. "The rest of our faith life is spent as a family and as a couple."
Landscapes in the heart
The territory obviously marks the faith experience. The countryside or the city. French or English. The traditions or the modernity. There are so many differences that can separate as well as unite. It's all about the art of drawing from the right places and finding a little time to offer where the heart is called. Nature cannot be absent from this growing journey of faith. In front of these grandiose landscapes of nature, where lakes and mountains touch the sky, where the heart expands in front of so much space and majesty, the soul can only grow by criss-crossing new interior landscapes that are mysteriously revealed. It is almost as if one could see the Good Lord arriving on horseback, far away, leaping over the hills (Cf. 2:8) and into the valleys of green grass where small herds of cows graze quietly here and there, living their most beautiful life.
The Solemnity of All Saints, Nov. 1
All Hallows’ Day, the Solemnity of All Saints, or All Saints’ Day is a celebration of all Catholic saints held on November 1 each year. “On this solemnity, we recall the holy men and women who, having completed their earthly journeys, now live forever with God. These saints, though not canonized, offer us models of abiding faith and love of God and neighbour” (Essential Guide to Seasons and Saints, 109).
The Church teaches that by imitating the virtues lived by the saints, the saints brings us closer to Christ. When we ask the saints to pray for us, we ask them to join their wills with the will of God and intercede for us here on earth. This is the Communion of Saints which we profess every Sunday in the Creed. (Source: USCCB)
Some resources for celebrating All Saints Day with your family:
Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed
(All Souls Day) - Nov2
All Souls’ Day, also known as “The Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed” is observed on Nov. 2. The faithful on earth can assist these purgatorial souls in attaining heaven through prayer, good work and the offering of Mass. At Mass on All Souls’ Day, we pray that through Christ’s loving mercy, God’s “departed servants…may be granted pardon and peace, and be brought to the joy of God’s eternal home. All Souls Day is an especially rich cultural experience for Hispanic/Latino Catholics, who call it “Día de los Muertos” or “The Day of the Dead.”
Some resources for commemorating All Souls Day with your family:
If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health, suicide or substance use crisis or emotional distress, reach out to Alberta Mental Health Helpline 24/7 to 1.877.303.2642 or Access 24/7 at 780.424.2424
For the past two years I’ve lost a loved one to suicide inside your month. There – I said it.
It’s been a quiet grief. These have been difficult deaths to process and, not knowing what’s acceptable to say in public, I’ve kept mostly quiet out of respect for those who mourn.
And yet, I am also mourning. My pain is real and it remains. Same too with the unanswered questions which linger, like debris that’s sunk to the bottom of the ocean – still there, but normally out of sight.
Autumn has been unusually warm and charming this year. The golden leaves that glisten skyward in the hot sun. Jupiter hanging out at sundown next to the moon. It’s been hard to reconcile today’s beauty with yesteryear’s yearning for one more chance to show that it’s worth waiting for brighter days. This October, a new chance presented itself.
My heart began to pound when I missed a call from my friend, a single male in his 30s. His profile resembling that of the ones I’ve lost to suicide. In haste, I dropped everything to call him back. Once the initial catch-up chit chat tapered, I expressed my concern and asked: “How are you doing?”
He said he feels fine for several weeks. Then for a week he can barely drag himself out of bed. The depression. The anxiety. This time of year is worse than the dead of winter, at least then he can skate and ski. The warmth and light of summer is exchanged for cooler, darker, shorter days. These destabilizing changes upset familiar routines. Autumn is the toughest time of year for him.
I felt sincere gratitude that he put words to his pain. I was so thankful that he reached out. Because, if he hadn’t, I wouldn’t have known how he was feeling and I wouldn’t have known he needed support. Only God saves, however, I can be a source of support pointing toward the light.
I want him to know what I wanted my cousin and friend to know, and what I want you to know too: You are loved. You are wanted. You are an irreplaceable gift. The world needs you. Your pain is not a burden. It unlocks compassion in this oftentimes cruel world. You are responsible for your wellness, but I want to be present to you. You are not alone. This too will pass. I’ll stand alongside you until it does. I love you. And God loves you more.
October, my eyes used to be unaware of your underbelly. Until the shock. The agony. The confusion. The guilt. The anger. The reflection. The compassion. The remembrance. The magnitude of these feelings that were once foreign but have now become familiar. Lost innocence. No turning back. This is what it means to be human in relationship with other humans. Love has shattered my heart.
Yet, my faith grounds me, especially in times of violence, oppression, suffering, loss and grief. I remain firm in hope – a supernatural hope rooted in mercy and forgiveness.
Fr. Avinash Colaco, Rector of St. Mary’s Cathedral, explained that people had been asking when we would host another sit-down meal. When Bishop McGrattan suggested a Thanksgiving dinner, it seemed like the perfect opportunity. Both guests and volunteers were excited for that day.
The program has made some changes. In the past, the meals were cooked right on site and served. But now they are catered. For now, a hybrid program is in place where guests have the option to sit-down and eat, or to receive a takeout package.
“This is a new system that we are developing” said Fr. Avi, adding that the program will run on Sundays for 48 weeks this year.
“I enjoyed the chance to go to each and every table and talk to the guests that came in. Building relationships with our community members is an important aspect of our program.”
Alejandro Henao, coordinator of the Feed the Hungry Program with the Diocese, said the Sunday Thanksgiving meal, which was sponsored by St. Mary’s Parish in Cochrane, was the first sit-down meal since March 2020 when they were put on hold due to the pandemic.
“Our Thanksgiving meal consisted of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, green beans and a salad. Dinner was topped off with dessert, a choice of apple crumble or pumpkin pie and whipping cream. Fresh coffee, lemonade and water were also provided.
“We are very grateful to all volunteers for their commitment and understanding through the transition,” he said. "376 guests were thrilled to be able to come in and relax and enjoy music while they ate their meal, while another 120 preferred to continue with the takeout option. Each guest left with a food package containing fresh fruit, granola bar, trail mix, juice and water.”
During the past two years of the pandemic, the program continued but only with the takeout option. Henao said it hasn’t been decided yet if the takeout option will continue with the program now that sit-down meals are back.
“It was great to be back. The volunteers were really excited and happy. They have been obviously kind of asking for this for the last six, seven months after the (health) restrictions were lifted,” he said. “For the clients it was positive too . . . We also had a pianist playing some music that weekend to provide more excitement and promote a warm environment for dinner.”
Carla Neary, who has been a volunteer for about 15 years and has been area lead for about seven years, said she continued to come in and volunteer during COVID.
“My mandate was to get us back in the hall for a sit-down meal. (Thanksgiving) Sunday was an amazing day . . . Food was provided by Spolumbo’s and Sunterra which was fabulous and it was just great to have our guests back in our dining hall and all the volunteers. I haven’t seen so many of them for so long,” she said.
“Everybody was appreciative. Everybody was so happy to be back into the hall. We had live music. It was just a lovely afternoon and everything worked out really well.”
The Feed the Hungry Program continues to encourage people to volunteer for this rewarding ministry. At least 60 volunteers are needed at each dinner. They also invite organizations and corporations to sponsor dinners as a way to provide their staff and stakeholders with meaningful opportunities to do good work and build community.
15 Minute Video Presentation of the Pastoral Letter
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem* on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." (Deuteronomy 6:5-9)
Jewish people pray this prayer daily and maybe we should too!
Throughout the week-long Priests Study Days (Oct. 3-6) in Canmore, we were reminded to listen and remember, and to let our memory inspire our service.
For some of us priests, this was our first visit to the Shrine Church of Our Lady of the Rockies in Canmore. This church has preserved beautifully memories of the past in the beautiful sculptures throughout the building, and yet it is a modern church ready to serve us in the future. A reminder that though our buildings change .. The Lord is One.
We began our week by remembering the years of ministry nine of our priests have offered to the Diocese. Their service embraced parishes and many lay associations, including the CWL and the Knights of Columbus. They came from around the world inspired by their memories of God’s love.
We listened to the the Synod Synthesis to hear the voices of the laity who gathered throughout the Synodal process and to what the Spirit had inspired them to say about our journey together. Some of what the priests heard was probably challenging, but in the end the message was - work with us.. help us to renew the life of the Spirit that we share - for the Lord is One.
Our speaker Fr Michael Simone, a Jesuit from Chicago, helped us to revisit the scriptures during the Study Days. His main theme was Remember and Believe. He helped us to see first how the Psalms came about as pilgrims visited shrines, to either ask forgiveness or to give thanks, and how at the shrine a song was sung in memory of the deeds of the Lord. These songs became our Psalms. He reminded us that Jesus would have prayed these Psalms, and that when we pray them we should ask ourselves .. what did these words inspire in Jesus' heart.. what are they saying to our hearts.
Fr. Simone took us through the Gospels, showing us how they were composed to help early Christian’s ready themselves to meet the Lord. He showed us that Jesus' mission was to help Israel see the true meaning of the the great events in their past. And how Jesus is with us every day, encouraging us to remember what God has done so we can detect the signs if his present activity.
Bishop McGrattan led us in the Eucharist each day. He spoke to us about the importance of our unity as a witness to our people that we believe in one Lord.. and in the Eucharist we heard Jesus own command, "Do this in memory of me."
Fr. Michael pointed out to us that Jesus saw himself as a Jew.. he lived his earthly life as a Jew. Every day he would pray the Shema, "Listen Israel .. the Lord is our God. The Lord is one."
We should learn the Shema and add it to our daily prayer!
On Wednesday, October 5, 2022, The Children of St. Martha School hosted a Fall Pow-Wow. True to the spirit of its patron saint of hospitality, they invited community members and students from other schools in the division to come and partake.
As part of the day’s celebration, Elder Peter Strikes With a Gun (Piitaiipoyi) provided an exceptional gift to the school community by bestowing a traditional Blackfoot Name: Naatoowootak’oyis - “Holy Spirit Lodge”
In his explanation of the name, Peter spoke about the school’s patron, St. Martha, and her example of compassion, dedication and, ultimately, forgiveness. “This is what we have seen in this building that we have come to many times - the compassion of the young children, the dedication and service of all the schools we have attended. We feel at home when we walk in and we hope that we will continue in our reconciliation.”
After imparting his wisdom, Peter purified and blessed the building while his grandsons, Donovan Strikes With a Gun and Mason Yellowfeet, shared a ceremonial grass dance that reinforced connection to the land.
“We are truly humbled,” says Principal Shannon Collier. “This name is just another example of how blessed we are to have the guidance and wisdom of Peter, his wife Jeannie, and all of the Elders who are part of our school community. With our Elders, students and staff, we really are a family and we have so much to be grateful for.”
“It was a remarkable day,” notes Superintendent Ken Sampson. “I can’t think of a more perfect name to describe the welcoming and loving daytime home provided for our students by The Children of St. Martha School…it’s very fitting.”
This new Blackfoot name will be prominently displayed, reminding all who enter that they are welcome.
Find out why the term “Annulment” is problematic and why it’s not the same as the Declaration of Nullity. Watch this brief video with Fr. Mark-Mary.
It takes three to make a marriage: man, woman, and God. It only takes one for marriages to fail.
He answered, “Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female’, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate”. Matthew 19:4-6
All things beautiful last forever, and beauty involves joy, hardships, mutual self-giving, and sacrifice.
What's happening in the Diocese of Calgary?
Perhaps you have gone through difficult times and received unhelpful but well-meaning comments. Maybe you just heard yourself say something that didn’t come across as well as you thought it would as you tried to console someone.
Watch this video and learn some tips on knowing the right things to say as a personal mini sensitivity training.
The Calgary Catholic Medical Association (CCMA) would love to invite and meet with you at our upcoming event. Please join us for the White Mass (Feast day of St. Luke) Tuesday, October. 18, 2022 at 7 pm, at St. Mary's Cathedral (Calgary) with Bishop McGrattan. This mass is open to the public and is not limited to only health care professionals.
The Calgary Catholic Medical Association (CCMA) has been a running lay Association for 20 years. It is the only multidisciplinary Catholic Association of health care providers in Canada. Our mission is to foster the personal and professional formation of healthcare professionals, in accord with the magisterium of the Catholic Church.
Membership includes voting and nomination privileges at the AGM, early notification of upcoming events, early bird discount pricing for social events, but most importantly, a community that holds common ground in faith and interest in health care.
To share some personal experiences of the CCMA, we have testimonies from a few members of the Executive Council.
I have been part of the CCMA since 2016, first as a spouse of a member, an allied health member, and then as a member of the Board. For me, this association is a place of community and connection with others of the same faith and values. Sometimes religion and spirituality can be very personal and hard to talk about, however, I have realized that spirituality is what gives us meaning in life, whether for ourselves or for the people we care for. This has been the place to share in how we can live out our faith while exhibiting the love and care like Jesus did within both our personal and professional roles.
To contact CCMA, visit their website at https://catholicmedyyc.wordpress.com
or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Looking for new ideas for your kids’ school lunches? Apparently this is what school lunch looks like around the world. We have no way of proving it, but we like what we see. Watch video
Pope Francis. Your Holiness,
I am an eighty-three-year-old woman, born and raised Roman Catholic Christian from the Swampy Cree Nation. I want to thank you for being with us in our homeland of Canada, to share our pain and our sorrow during this time of finding
unmarked graves and reliving the era of the residential school system. You have taken responsibility and humbled yourself by professing shame for the Catholic Church’s treatment of the First Nations in our land. How moving it was to hear you say, “I am deeply sorry. I humbly beg for your forgiveness for the evil committed by many Christians.”
There is no other gesture, no other humbler words, nor more sacred than these words, “I am deeply sorry”. Forgiveness is the way to freedom and peace as Jesus, our Lord and Saviour taught us in the “Our Father”, a prayer which says,
“...Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us...” Luke 11:1
Thank you for your powerful words and example of humility and compassion. Dear Pope Francis, you have graced us with your presence.
I want to give tribute to the priests and sisters of the past and present who have remained true to their vocation to teach about God’s love for us. We remain grateful for their prayers in sustaining us through the good and difficult times. Their names and deeds remain within our hearts. Many people recall and remember favourite nuns and priests. Stories and memories of them bring loneliness and joy. Many faithful religious have died on our land evangelizing and teaching the Bible. We are blessed to have our own patron saint, St. Kateri Tekakwitha. We have quiet saints around us - grandparents, parents, our wise and faith-filled elders, our relentless leaders who speak and work for our people in Truth and Reconciliation. God bless their enormous work. This historic visit was made possible by their dedication and persistence in seeking the Truth and Reconciliation. Thank you to the Bishops and Priests who organized the liturgical part of the celebration. Thank you for all who supported the Indigenous endeavour in hosting this sacred event.
This is the beginning of a new chapter in our story. “I am the way, the truth and the life.” John 14:6. This is also a renewed and continued relationship with the Catholic Church. The crowning of you with the headdress was a significant sign of acceptance of our cultural beliefs and a better understanding of inculturation of our Catholic and native traditions.
Your powerful penitential pilgrim speech will remain in my heart, and in all our hearts, in the spirit of mercy, compassion and love. Each person, guided by the Holy Spirit, will find a way to heal.
On this first step of my journey, I have wanted to make space for memory. Here, today, I am with you to recall the past, to grieve with you, to bow our heads together in silence and to pray before the graves. Let us allow these moments of silence to help us interiorize our pain. Silence. And prayer. In the face of evil, we pray to the Lord of goodness; in the face of death, we pray to the God of life. Our Lord Jesus Christ took a grave, which seemed the burial place of every hope and dream, leaving behind only sorrow, pain and resignation, and made it a place of rebirth and resurrection, the beginning of a history of new life and universal reconciliation. Our own efforts are not enough to achieve healing and reconciliation: we need God’s grace. We need the quiet and powerful wisdom of the Spirit, the tender love of the Comforter. May he bring to fulfilment the deepest expectations of our hearts. May he guide our steps and enable us to advance together on our journey."
With sincere gratitude,
From your lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work (Psalm 104:13).
The Israelites speak about Mount Zion with great reverence. The temple in Jerusalem might not have been the highest point in the known world at the time, but it was very significant for the people of God. In this line from the psalms, we see God reflecting back this reverence: he waters the mountains and they bear fruit. But this simple depiction of the water cycle takes on a deeper spiritual meaning: the fruit of God’s work is similar.
I remember Fr. Keith Sorge telling a story of his friends who came to visit Calgary for the first time. They were awed when he took them to see the mountains: “How can you not be out here every weekend; and they’re so close.”
We have a great gift to live where we do, and experience our Rockies whenever we want. The Angel’s on High weekend is a chance to experience this wonder of God’s creation within our community and to build it up.
With our two hikes this year to Troll Falls and going up to the Orphan above Canmore, we saw a world “charged with the grandeur of God” (Gerard Manley Hopkins). For some, it was a chance to relax in nature. For others, it was a challenge that pushed us to know ourselves better. For still others, it was a chance to visit and build community. Through it all, we became more subtle instruments of God to bear his fruit. Too often, we get caught up in everything moving and being pulled from one thing to the next. Our Angel’s on High weekend gives us, as a parish, a chance to draw on the waters of God and be refreshed and replenished.
Next year has begun its planning too, and we think a trip down to Waterton in late July is perfect. So if you would like to experience God in nature with St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish next year, please join us!
Submitted by Fr. James Hagel, Pastor of St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish in Chestermere, AB
It all started with a ghostly face peering through the melting permafrost of an exhumed grave located in the Canadian arctic, the face of John Torrington. I saw his picture for the first time while reading, Frozen in Time: The Fate of the Franklin Expedition by Owen Beattie and John Gieger when I was studying in university. John was a member of the doomed Franklin Expedition, sent by the Royal Navy in 1845 to find a passage through Canada’s arctic to the Far East, bringing glory and riches to the British Empire. The expedition ended in catastrophe, all 129 men dying due to a mix of disease, malnutrition, scurvy, starvation, and accidental poisoning. The human drama of the Franklin Expedition has fascinated me for most of my life, and as I’ve gotten older the thought of these men, and the suffering they must have endured has only tugged at my heart more fully.
I’ve been a consumer of Catholic literature for years, both fiction and non-fiction, so when I decided to challenge myself to write a novel it was clear to me that Catholic themes would be at the heart of the story that I would tell. I just needed to come up with the story! As a husband and father of five kids, I thought about sharing my family experiences, to write about what I know most intimately, but the pull of writing a story, a novel, was more powerful. Then I thought of that face!
Writing a novel was a “bucket list” thing for me. I wanted to discover if I had what it takes to write a full book, one good enough to get published. I also dreamed of looking at my bookshelf and seeing a spine looking back at me with my name on it! I’ve always loved reading, I consume books constantly, both novels, mostly historical fiction, but also every new Stephen King creation that is released, as well as non-fiction works of history. As the aforementioned Mr. King calls his fans, I am definitely a constant reader!
So, I would write a novel about the Franklin Expedition, but it would have Catholic themes embedded throughout it. In planning the book, I decided to focus on characters, because that is where much of the mystery of the event lies. Most of the expedition’s sailors are little known to history, so I could create backstories for them and imagine plausible events during their time stuck in the ice. I picked four names off the crew list and attached them to four basic personalities of fellow teachers I work with at St. Joseph Collegiate and worship with at St. Mary’s here in Brooks. Then, I imagined they were the last four survivors, living their last eight days at Starvation Cove, the most southerly point the crew advanced during their desperate death march south in search of deliverance, hence the name of the novel. I imagined their physical decline and what they must have had to endure as they slowly succumbed to the harsh arctic elements. I also thought about the spiritual reckoning they inevitably faced, and that is where our Catholic faith would become part of the story.
So many people, even my own teenaged children, ask me questions about God and His Church. They ask why bad things happen to good people. Why evil can exist in a world created by God. Why Christians can seem so indifferent to suffering, or even worse, be the cause of suffering. In the novel, the main character struggles with these questions his entire life. This character is Joseph Andrews, a real crew member of the expedition, a name I took off the actual crew list. It is also the name of my oldest son, Joseph Andrew. The character is a good man, honest, forthright, charitable, but disturbed at the hypocrisy he sees in the world. Disturbed by people who say one thing but do another. Before he dies, he finds some heavenly answers to these questions, allowing him to be at peace with his past and hopeful for eternity.
Catholic fiction can be a powerful tool for evangelization. It has been for me. A story written that can inspire the reader in their faith is a gift indeed. I have been blessed to read all the novels of Michael O’Brien over the years, arguably Canada’s greatest Catholic novelist and author of Father Elijah: An Apocalypse, among other great works. Every time I read one of his books, my faith deepens. The publisher of Starvation Cove, Ottawa’s Justin Press, is closely associated with Michael O’Brien and has published several of his works. I could not be more honoured to be associated with such authentically faithful people, people who have impacted my own Catholic faith so fundamentally.
I was speaking to a friend the other day who has read Starvation Cove. She is fellow teacher at St. Joseph’s and parishioner at St. Mary’s. I had asked her a few weeks ago what her favorite part of the book was, and she had a difficult time answering the question. She said she had indeed enjoyed the book, had read it quickly, but there was something about it that she needed to think about and would get back to me when she could more clearly articulate what she wanted to share. She approached me and recounted that it had finally come to her. She shared that what she most liked about Starvation Cove is that the character of Joseph Andrews reminded her of her husband. A good man, a great man actually, who struggles with his faith. Her husband is looking forward to reading the novel. With God’s grace, I pray that Starvation Cove may inspire this man as works of Catholic fiction have inspired me throughout my life. I’m looking forward to listening to what he has to say when he’s done.
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers