2021 Sunday of the Word of God
Pope Francis’ Apostolic Letter, Motu proprio Aperuit illis published on September 30, 2019 establishes that the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (January 24, 2021) is to be devoted to the celebration, study and dissemination of the Word of God.
Hope — St. Joseph must have had a lot of it, leading his very pregnant wife through the hill country from Nazareth to Bethlehem to give birth to his son. I imagine it was an arduous journey filled with uncertainty. Sometimes amidst hard times, I’m tempted to let discouragement steal my hope; I forget that my circumstances will change in time.
I crawled over the 2020 finish line, exhausted and tired, only to be met with the dead of winter. January is an isolating month in the best of times, nevermind government sanctions restricting social contact.
The reality is that life is hard for a lot of people right now; so much change and instability due to the ongoing pandemic. But what is unchanging is that our faith always gives us reason to hope. As Catholics, we carry the Good News of the Resurrection within us. With the eyes of faith, no time is wasted to perfect ourselves in love. And we can look to the great examples of the saints to help guide our path.
In a special way this year, Pope Francis invites us to renew our hope by placing an emphasis on Our Lord’s foster father. He has declared Dec. 8, 2020 to Dec. 8 2021 — The Year of St. Joseph.
What St. Joseph represents in my life is a husband and father who is a faithful, patient, humble, courageous protector. Joseph didn’t utter a single word in the Bible, rather he communicated volumes through his attentive presence.
The Holy Father Pope Francis encourages each of us with these words found in his Apostolic Letter Patris Corde: “Each of us can discover in Joseph – the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence – an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble.”
My hope is to seize this opportunity to take a deeper dive into what St. Joseph’s secure, strong, safe, steadfast fatherly presence means in my life and the life of my family.
Our family has set a few goals for the coming year to get to know St. Joseph better, and grow in relationship with him. I hope a few of these ideas will inspire you to think of ways to discover the presence of St. Joseph in your life and keep you anchored in hope.
Written by Sara Francis for Faithfully
“Why did you become a Religious Sister?” I was recently asked this question by a young woman, and I thought: “How can I answer that in one sentence?”, knowing that we had a very limited time to speak. “It was because God called me,” I said. She responded, “I know what you mean. God called me, too.” I elaborated, “I fell in love with Jesus and wanted to give my whole life to Him.”
I have often wondered why so few young women are becoming Religious Sisters. Is not God still calling young women like He called me? What do I need to do to help them open their hearts, to hear His Voice, and to answer as St. Francis of Assisi did when he heard the Lord call him to live the Gospel life: “This is what I long to do with all my heart!”
I heard the call to give my life to the Lord when I was 16. In the very core of my being, I knew that the Lord wanted me for Himself and that all my incoherent longings would be fulfilled in Him. Since my call to be a Religious Sister was completely tied up with my newly identified Franciscan way of being, I read all that I could about St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi and was drawn more deeply into the way of life that would eventually lead to becoming Catholic and entering the Franciscan Sisters of St. Elizabeth.
Becoming familiar with the Scriptures and the lives of the Saints are extremely helpful ways to figure out what spiritual identity the Lord has given us. Spending time with Jesus is also essential in developing a life-giving relationship with Him. I used to take the family dog for a walk so that I could pray alone without anyone asking me what I was doing. The dog was most uninquisitive and non-judging. I would also recommend finding a quiet place that speaks to you of God. St. Francis liked to frequent caves in the hillside and deserted chapels.
I also was blessed to have helpful spiritual people with whom I could talk about what was going on in my relationship with the Lord. Some of these were friends around my same age. Some were older people who helped to guide me in a good direction. Spending time with the Sisters, working alongside them, praying with them—these were all beneficial activities that aided my discernment that this was the community that the Lord wanted to me join.
These Sisters were not young. I did not join these Sisters because they were young. They were vibrant, faith-filled women who had given their lives to the Lord, who were living their consecration in their ordered, stable, prayerful, loving, communal, hard-working, Franciscan way, and I loved them for it.
So, I ask the young women who are reading this: What do you long to do with all your heart?
Written by Sister Dianne Turner, OSE
Franciscan Sisters of St. Elizabeth
Photo courtesy of Sr. Dianne Turner.
Why be a consecrated man or woman?
In his homily for the World Day of Prayer for the Consecrated Life in 2020, Pope Francis said, "Men and women religious, who live to imitate Jesus, are called to bring their own gaze into the world, a gaze of compassion, a gaze that goes in search of those far-off; a gaze that does not condemn, but encourages, frees, consoles; a gaze of compassion." That Jesus had compassion on the people is something that we hear more than once in the gospels.
The more we come to know Jesus through praying with the gospels, the more we recognize his compassionate love for us individually and for all the world. Young people who want to know God's plan for their lives would be helped in their discernment by placing themselves in Christ's loving gaze. There they can come to know more of who they are and the gifts that they could be using to 'encourage, free and console' others in the form of life that is their vocation.
For myself, I grew up in a Catholic family in which prayer, participation in Mass and helping others nourished my faith. By Gr. 10, I was certain that God wanted me to be a Sister and since many of our teachers were Faithful Companions of Jesus and I was attracted by their way of living, I asked to enter in the middle of Gr. 11. The training I received to pray with Scripture and the courses I took over the years to understand the Bible more all enabled me to develop a deeper relationship with Jesus. By living the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience in community, I have been gifted with countless experiences with people of different cultures in different countries.
We religious pray often that more young men and women will hear God calling them to serve him through a lifetime of dedication as priests, brothers or sisters. If those young people feel drawn to a particular way of serving, they are encouraged to contact one or more of the communities in our diocese. They may find a sense of being at home when the spirit of a given community matches the gift of the individual.
Please join us in prayer for vocations to the priesthood and religious life especially on February 2, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, and on the weekend of Feb. 6-7, the World Day of Prayer for the Consecrated Life.
Why I am a religious Sister today
Every call to religious life is personal. We all have our individual way of coming to know what we want for our life. For me, Sister Ernestine Miskolczi, SSS, this awareness happened very early in life. I remember very well that when I was about five years old while visiting relatives, three-year old twin girls were dressed up as nuns by the older girls. Being shy and perhaps a loner I was sitting on the stairs looking at the twins and thinking to myself that they will not be ‘nuns’ but I will.
During my growing-up years we had Sisters who would teach us catechism during the summer holidays. These Sisters seemed always happy and that is what I wanted for my life. My teachers during high-school were all Sisters who further impressed me and helped draw me to thinking about this life style for myself. Needless to say, there were some handsome young fellows who held my hand and touched my heart but could never draw me away from my first choice.
In high school I had come to know a couple different communities of religious life. The first one that I had come to know was the one that I chose to enter right out of high school. I grew up in the wide-open spaces on a farm in Saskatchewan with blue skies from horizon to horizon. When I entered the noviciate of the Sisters of Social Service I had to move to the big city of Hamilton. Wide open spaces were gone. Three months later we were going to see Niagara Falls; what joy filled my heart, I could be in the open spaces for a while. To my great disappointment we didn’t see much open space as there were buildings practically all the way to the Falls. I soon learned that religious life wasn’t all peaches and cream. It had its ups and downs as all life does.
For over sixty years of ministry in God’s service as a Sisters of Social Service I enjoyed twenty years of as a teacher in Ontario and Saskatchewan, thirty years of parish ministry in three different parishes in Calgary, and several years of volunteer work wherever I can.
I am blessed indeed in many ways. My other works took me to see the Holy Land twice, visits to Europe three times, to Mexico three times, Los Angeles seven times. Who can want for more?
Words from Sr. Mary Elisabeth
February 2nd is the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. It is also the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life. To me, this feast meets a need to give praise and thank the Lord for the gift of the Consecrated people in the Church, which belongs to the sanctity of the Church, as Saint John Paul II once pointed out.
On this day the prayers of the entire Church are dedicated to every consecrated person, giving thanks to God the Father, giver of every good, for the gift of this vocation. This feast offers the opportunity to appreciate the testimony of those who have chosen to follow Christ through the practice of the evangelical counsels by promoting understanding and appreciation of the Consecrated Life within the People of God.
This day is also, and above all, a day to renew our commitment and rekindle the feelings that inspired and continue to inspire the gift of ourselves to the Lord. Throughout the history of the Church, men and women religious have been a light in the darkness by living out their various charisms, and this day, we find a beautiful opportunity to thank the Lord for their gift to the Church.
Pope Benedict XVI once said: "In today’s feast we celebrate the mystery of consecration: the consecration of Christ, the consecration of Mary, the consecration of those who place themselves in the following of Jesus for love of the Kingdom of God." (Homily, February 2nd, 2012)
May Christ Jesus bless all of us on this beautiful feast and may He continue to call many to serve Him in the practice of the evangelical counsels with a heart full of joy to serve Him and only Him.
Vivit vero in me Christus - Gal 2, 20
30 days of prayer to St. Joseph
It was 2012. My then-girlfriend, Chelsea, had completed her BEd and had taught part-time for a year in Saskatoon. A full-time position there proved precarious, following a teachers’ strike and cutbacks. Although she loved the Catholic Saskatchewan school system, she was discerning a move to greener pastures.
I was working for the summer before entering the Ed program in my 4th year at the UBC campus in Kelowna BC, where I grew up. Having travelled to Alberta for work before school started again, I was living in a camp about 500 km drive north of Edmonton.
In June, we started a 30-day novena to St. Joseph, over the phone, to discern Chelsea’s future career path. I was most excited about her application to teach at my old elementary school in Kelowna. A move there would end the long-distance factor in our relationship and would potentially see us teaching in the same diocese if I were to get hired at my secondary school, Immaculata Regional High, after convocation.
The prayer was beautiful, but the conditions were not, at least not on my end of the call. The cell reception so close to the Northwest Territories was abysmal and forced me to walk to the top of a nearby hill, which didn’t stop the mosquitoes from tracking me down. Sometimes Chelsea would lead, other times it was me, reading the prayer on my blackberry screen between swats at mossies and checking to see if the call had been dropped. This was anything but a “When Harry Met Sally” type of romantic scene on the dusty bi-centennial highway to Greater Slave Lake; more like a real game of telephone that mostly left us wondering what words the other had just prayed.
“We must believe that the life of St. Joseph - ”
“Pray for us.”
“- Not finished – spent in the presence of Jesus and Mary – “
“Pray for us.”
“Almost done – was a continual prayer – “
“Lord hear our prayer.”
“Oh for – Abounding in acts of faith…”
And so it went for 30 days. St. Joseph must not have minded the static, because on the day following the novena, day 31, Chelsea received a call requesting her to do a Skype interview for the 5/6 split position in Kelowna, at St. Joseph Elementary. We were elated and thankful to God for his faithfulness through the intercession of St. Joseph.
Chelsea was hired to work in the much sought-after Okanagan Valley and moved from Saskatoon the next month. We were engaged that November and married by the following August. We did end up teaching in the same diocese for a year before welcoming our daughter Hannah. Early on in our relationship, Chelsea had always remained aloof about our future, leaving the distance between us to be closed, or not, by the providence of God. St. Joseph continues to be a model for this docility in our household and we have returned to that novena on recent occasions, most notably when I applied to Calgary Catholic in 2016. His influence in our lives is real and testifies to the goodness of God that cannot fail.
Immediate and drastic changes took place the spring and summer of 1999. I gave up my part-time job, sold our acreage and relocated to Wetaskiwin, Alberta, in September. I prayed to God to please help me find a new purpose for my extra time and energy.
A thought emerged to help grade-ones learn how to read! I recalled how difficult my grade one experience was when I could not speak English. I remembered the shame and humiliation I felt when I was strapped because I could not read. I thought through my new-found inspiration. Later that day, we were in the principal’s office of Sacred Heart School and I expressed my desire. The principal, Mr. Simms, replied, “I could use 25 more like you.” One week later in the school year of 1999-2000, I embarked on my mission!
Now, I’m well into my 18th continuous year in the grade one class of Mrs Zoria Verhegge, who is a caring, talented, and highly professional teacher.
Let me share my one-hour daily routine, starting with checking in at the office. Next, I’m welcomed by the teacher(s) and students as Grandma Rose. After singing Oh Canada and partaking in daily prayers, Mrs V. would update me on any current information. Each day, I work with two students, so I take the next two pupils on the roster one at a time. I spend about 20 minutes with each on a one-to-one basis. Enroute to our ‘room’, we pass a bank of lockers displaying the even numbers. I cover the numbers, and the child counts by 2 to 100. Once at our desk, we open our word work to show the ten new spelling words. The child will read as best they can. We then talk about each word, use it in a sentence, and print them on a whiteboard. Next, the words are covered and erased if spelt correctly by the student. They are delighted when the board is totally cleared. Lastly, the words are neatly printed in their workbook. This child is praised for their efforts and receives a sticker. By mid-January, several pupils are able to make simple sentences that are kept in a separate scribbler.
Back in the classroom, Mrs V. often asks me random questions, reflecting on my experience as a mother and grandmother. These questions contribute to classroom discussions. My presence is helpful in another aspect because some children don’t have a “grandmother” figure in their lives. Then…times up! I bid them goodbye for another day. I check out, and as I walk to the exit, I thank God for such a safe and caring Catholic school, where I have the privilege of helping some children learn to read.
I continue to volunteer with a vested interest because the more I pour into this service, the more healing I receive for my personal juvenile trauma. Truly a win-win situation.
New year, new growth
When people have invested their time and money to grow professionally, I believe it is misplaced modesty for them to claim they don’t know much more than the average laymen. At the same time, further education doesn’t always provide greater insights than years of experience, especially if it is also attentive and reflective. Between the two of us, with nine daughters, at this point my wife and I have over 340 years of experience in parenting. That may be why we are often asked for insights on the struggles that come with raising children.
A friend of my wife requested ideas this past week. This coupled with the looming new year got me thinking about goals and purpose. These are in everyone’s life but have different meaning for young adults. While a cliché it is enduringly true that each day is the first day of the rest of our lives – January 1 just throws that into sharper focus.
One of the good things about contemporary culture is a greater recognition of the differences between individuals. While not throwing out the good of previous social conventions, all people can take heart and be inspired by the fact that they possess certain gifts and inclinations (some of which are less common and potentially more needed) and there is exciting challenge and opportunity in them inventing the kinds of people they can be, both personally and professionally as they grow more mature. They should take seriously what they find worthwhile and see how it might be worthy of great investment of their time and energies.
Most children achieve some successes in school fairly clearly – not always in the so-called core subjects and not always where parents might want this achievement. If they are able to achieve in some areas, and show interest in those, it points toward potential elsewhere too. There is virtue in them figuring out how to do better in those areas they don’t find as easy, or as interesting. And further virtue is discovering how to ask for help and make their needs understood.
One wish I have is for young people to take seriously what it means to be authentic men and women. This is generic in becoming the best people they can as they exercise their gifts and opportunities. But is also differentiated in that we express ourselves through our sexual identity. St John Paul the Great used the term ‘feminine genius’ to bring into focus ways of thinking and acting that are usually more accessible to women. We, and young people more fully growing into themselves, can benefit our culture and our world in terms of service to others and leadership. Most of them will likely be married some day and becoming a strong spouse and parent is tremendously important. Being intentional in that character development is work for now, not simply later.
Inasmuch as they are growing into their adulthood in a weak and troubled society, there is also amazing need that they can meaningfully contribute to answering.
Ordinary life, in Ordinary Time
As I put away the last of the Christmas decorations and sweep up the tinsel amidst the fallen pine needles of the tree, my thoughts are turning towards the coming weeks. During the past Christmas season, we’ve been celebrating and contemplating the birth of Our Lord and Saviour. We’ve decorated our homes with festive cheer, brightened our mantles with Nativity scenes, and filled our tables with delicious things to eat and drink. Now we enter into Ordinary Time of the Church, and for some, this can seem like a return to the mundane. As a member of Opus Dei, I welcome this time of the year and see it as an opportunity to begin again, to find greater meaning and fulfilment in my ordinary, daily work and life, and most of all to grow in my friendship with Christ.
Everyday brings a new struggle to transform the little things of ordinary life into an encounter with Our Lord ... it starts when my alarm goes oﬀ at 5 and I welcome the new day in which to serve Him. It’s my favourite time of day, I’m the only one up and I can spend some quiet time in mental prayer and spiritual reading. I usually order my day with hours of work making sure there’s time for God throughout. One of those times is daily Mass where again I oﬀer my entire day and talk to Our Lord in the depths of my heart. I also try and make it outside, even when it’s cold, to shake the cobwebs out of my head, go for a walk and say the rosary. While meditating on the mysteries of Our Lord’s life, I’m also able to appreciate the beauty of God’s creation, the crunch of snow under my boots, the roll of the foothills meeting the mountains, the big blue Alberta skies.
Back in the house, there are meals to make, rooms to tidy, paperwork to be done. Yet each duty brings with it an opportunity to pray for someone, to do my work well, and to make it a pleasing offering to God. Making time for friends is a must and during this pandemic, it has been a challenge. However, FaceTime and Zoom with family and friends brighten the day. There are so many lonely people out there just waiting to hear a friendly voice, someone’s laughter, to comfort and encourage them. I end the day thanking our Lord for all the blessings, seeing Him in everyone I met or talked to; I ask forgiveness for those times I did not please Him, knowing that tomorrow brings a new day, a new beginning.
Time with family and friends always brings cheer to these wintry months. Our family welcomed the winter season with great anticipation, as we enjoy many of the winter sports. My husband Brian is an excellent skier. He put all four sons on skis before they were two. And if we weren’t skiing we were tobogganing down the nearby hills or snowshoeing in the back 40. If you live in Canada you’ve got to learn to embrace the snow and cold. Bundle up and get outside. You will find all of the Siray’s outdoors during the winter months. We also discovered that it brought us closer together as a family ... lots of laughter, good conversations, and praying together. Now that Fr. Nathan is in Canmore, it provides an excellent opportunity to make a pilgrimage to Our Lady of the Rockies, to pray and to see our son. His vocation to the priesthood has been such a blessing for our family ... always encouraging and lifting us up when needed, joining in the family celebrations when he’s able, playing with his nieces and nephews.
Thus this Ordinary Time in the Church is anything but ordinary, it’s a time of grace and thanksgiving. A time to walk with Our Lord and his disciples while meditating on the Gospels. One must strive to listen to His words and deepen one's knowledge and friendship with Him. A time to care for those around you, to smile, to give encouragement to those in need. A time to look for joy and be optimistic about the future. A time to discover the richness of your ordinary life.
Aames Abanto from Catholic Sunday Best offers five great reasons for Catholic gentlemen to adopt St. Joseph as their 2021 patron saint.
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Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers