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Pray with the Universal Church with the Liturgy of the Hours
Written by Joy Gregory, March 12
The new church won’t open until a few weeks after Easter Sunday, but parish priest Fr. Nathan Siray is already thinking about how one particular piece of sacred art will inspire everyone who enters Our Lady of the Rockies Catholic Church in Canmore.
The art is a stained-glass depiction of Mary and the Christ Child. Composed of 24 separate pieces, the window will be painstakingly assembled and then installed in early spring. The window shows Mary seated on a throne. While her gaze falls on those who observe the window, her hands support a young Jesus, who leans against his mother’s legs while also looking outward at the world.
Designated as the Calgary Catholic Diocese’s first “shrine church,” Our Lady of the Rockies will be consecrated in early May. As a shrine church, it offers local and visiting Catholics a holy place of pilgrimage. Catholics from near and far are expected to visit Our Lady of the Rockies to draw closer to God and to develop a stronger spiritual connection to Our Lady.
As such, the window is destined to be a defining feature of the new church, says Fr. Siray. While he appreciates the window’s beauty, the parish priest also likes how the art “depicts Mary as both queen and mother. That’s important as Mary looks other-worldly and regal, but the window also shows her with Jesus. The picture is symbolic of her roots in heaven and on earth. We so often speak of her as the Mother of God, but she was also a follower of Christ, a disciple.”
Visitors familiar with the Canmore location in the first range of the Rocky Mountains are also likely to recognize the Three Sisters Mountain range in the background of the new stained-glass window. Long-time parishioners told Fr. Siray that Catholics in the region have historically associated the Three Sisters with the three greatest theological virtues of faith, hope and charity. This artistic connection between Mary and a symbolic manifestation of the theological virtues “is ideal, since Our Lady, the greatest of all disciples, lived the virtues so well—and so can each of us,” says Fr. Siray.
When complete, Our Lady of the Rockies will hold about 430 people, with room for another 100 in the narthex. Fr. Siray expects that the stained-glass window, which was built in Atlanta, Georgia, will be installed by April.
To receive regular updates from Fr. Nathan on the building of the Shrine Church, please follow Our Lady of the Rockies Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ourladyrocks/
Writen by Joy Gregory for Faithfully
Photos courtesy of Fr. Nathan Siray
As Christians, it is our lifelong responsibility to strive to conform ourselves to Christ. The Church gives us the period of Lent as a time to concentrate more seriously on the practices that lead us to grow in discipleship and advance in the spiritual life. Below are ten forms of penance from the Christian tradition and what these might look like for you today.
1. Give up sin
This is straightforward; if it’s wrong, don’t do it! Discipline in the small things makes us strong for when we face bigger challenges. This is a time to clear up the seemingly inconsequential but sinful habits that have crept into your life – the white lies, taking things nobody will notice, overindulging, and spreading gossip.
Prayer is a conversation that requires both speaking and listening. If you tend to talk more than you listen, try silent meditation or adoration. If you get distracted on your own join the community for daily Mass or join a prayer or bible study group. Do you find yourself at a loss for words when it comes to prayer? Try memorization - a Psalm or one of the Gospel canticles from the Liturgy of the Hours makes a Scriptural prayer available to you at any time.
Intermittent fasting is all the rage. Put a spiritual focus on this latest diet trend. Instead of fasting to lose weight consider that fasting is an ancient tradition meant to strengthen the mind, the body, and one’s relationship with God. By limiting not only what but also when you eat, you put your trust in God rather than eating whenever you want or whenever food is around.
4. Do good works
Have your chronic sleep debt and busyness led you to let the little things slide? For the sake of others, clean up after yourself, unload the dishwasher at the office, and shovel the walk for your elderly neighbour. For the sake of the environment bring your own travel cup rather than use a disposable, skip the produce bags at the grocery, and iron and repair rather than dispose of and purchase fast fashion.
5. Give alms
How many times have you forgotten your offering envelope? Do you attend different parishes for Sunday Mass from week to week depending on your schedule? If you parish offers the service, consider signing up for direct debit so your gift is consistent. Many charities make it possible for you to make your gift automatic through a regular subscription. This kind of commitment increases your sense of belonging and makes it possible for organizations to plan their programming and services.
Did you know that throughout the year, all Catholics who are 14 years or older are obliged to abstain from meat on Fridays? It is permitted to substitute other good actions for abstinence from meat but that seems to have led many to forget the prescription altogether! In addition to abstaining from a desirable food for one or more days during the season, Lent is an excellent time to reclaim Fridays as the memorial of Christ’s saving death on the cross.
7. Carry out our duties of life
Do you sometimes turn down invitations to socialize or join a team, skip the gym, or can’t find time to make an ongoing volunteer commitment? It could be that you are already carrying out your duties of life! By contrast, if your primary responsibilities and relationships are suffering because you’re too busy with things on the periphery, it might be time to slow down and recalibrate.
8. Read deeply
Neuroscientist Maryanne Wolf has been researching how the brain develops different skills when reading in print than reading online. Online readers cover more content but they skim rather than read deeply. What does it matter? The online reader doesn’t “have time to grasp complexity, to understand another’s feelings, to perceive beauty, and to create thoughts of the reader’s own.” Reading a printed book over Lent can improve your concentration, remind you to think critically, and develop your empathy for others, all of which can help you become a better disciple.
9. Control desire for possessions
Marketing is all about psychology and the power of persuasion. In our social media age, sellers are called “influencers”. If you use social media, mute your favourite influencers and submit yourself to the influence of prayer instead.
10. Control Desire for entertainment
Entertainment often provides a welcome rest but today’s streaming services make distraction available any time all the time. Suspend, limit, or schedule your streaming so that entertainment does not drown out uncomfortable feelings that you could bring to God in prayer.
Written by Dr. Simone Brosig, Liturgy Consultant/Director, Diocese of Calgary
(Adapted from https://nlo.cccb.ca/images/stories/Living_Lent.pdf).
As the Season of Lent begins, it is a good time for us to seek an interior renewal and to face the distracting attachments and preoccupations that have become part of our often very busy lives. These forty days serve to remind us of Christ’s journey into the desert. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) tells us that “Jesus' temptation reveals the way in which the Son of God is Messiah, contrary to the way Satan proposes to him and the way men wish to attribute to him. This is why Christ vanquished the Tempter for us: “For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sinning.
By the solemn forty days of Lent, the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert. (CCC, 540)
It is this Lenten discipline of penance, renunciation, and detachment which reawakens within us the awareness of our dependence on God and His great love for each of us. While retreating to the desert might be impossible on a practical level, our Lenten observance of penance, abstinence, prayer, and almsgiving helps us to grow in Christ daily and to avoid temptation.
In particular, the psalmist’s refrain, “Be still and know that I am God” invites us to be attentive to our times of personal and communal prayer. One of the Desert Fathers, Amma Syncletica said, “There are many who live in the mountains and behave as if they were in the town, and they are wasting their time. It is possible to be a solitary in one’s mind while living in a crowd, and it is possible for one who is a solitary to live in the crowd of his own thoughts.” (Benedicta Ward, The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, Cistercian Publications: 1975, p. 19)
Listening to God in prayer is an important part of a life of faith. God desires to speak to us and we have the privilege of listening to the promptings of His Spirit through the consolations and desolations with which He graces us during our prayer. William Barclay’s reflection on prayer and silence is often quoted as follows, “… Prayer is a way of offering ourselves to God in order that He should be able to make use of us. It may be that one of our great faults in prayer is that we talk too much and listen too little. When prayer is at its highest, we wait in silence for God's voice to us; we linger in His presence for His peace and His power to flow over us and around us; we lean back in His everlasting arms and feel the serenity of perfect security in Him.”
The psalmist writes in Psalm 46, “Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” Walter Brueggemann, a well-known scholar of the psalms, says that some psalms were written for the good times while others were written for the times when the future seemed uncertain and perhaps filled with impending troubles. These psalms were written for people living in times of change and uncertainty who were experiencing feelings of anxiety and even dismay. (The Spirituality of the Psalms, Brueggemann, pp. 19-25.) Psalm 46 provides the reassurance that God is stable when all else seems unstable. At a deeply personal and spiritual level, this is important for each of us.
This is the deeper experience of prayer and listening which the time of silence and stillness offers to us.
“In the silence of the heart, God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself. Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.” (Saint Teresa of Calcutta, In the Heart of the World: Thoughts, Stories and Prayers)
Let us embrace this season of Lent as a time to “be solitary in one’s mind.” (Benedicta Ward, Ibid.) If we allow God’s grace to renew our hearts during this Lenten season through prayer, then in the solitary stillness of such experiences we will know His great love, wisdom, and charity and be moved more generously to witness and share this with others.
Steeped in the ancient traditions of the Catholic Church and confused by contemporary secular culture, the Sacrament of Reconciliation intimidates a lot of people. Fr. John Nemanic gets that. He also understands why so many Catholics regularly participate in this grace-filled ritual—and he’s hopeful more will avail themselves of its sacramental blessings this Lenten season.
“The Sacrament of Reconciliation is the most difficult of the seven sacraments because we have to really look at ourselves honestly,” says Fr. Nemanic, the parish priest at St. Michael Catholic Community in the West Springs community of southwest Calgary.
While it can be difficult to talk about the mistakes you’ve made and the people you’ve hurt, “reconciliation is also a sacrament of growth. It helps us see where we are now—and who we aspire to be,” says Fr. Nemanic.
Biblical roots, contemporary blessings
The sacrament itself is rooted in biblical teachings, adds Fr. Fernando Genogaling of St. Luke’s in northwest Calgary. Instituted by Christ, Reconciliation invites us to seek forgiveness, express sorrow “and to take instruction on what to do in order to avoid making the sin,” explains Fr. Genogaling. “This sacrament is one of the ways we learn and experience the grace of humility. In return for confessing our sins, we receive an assurance of God’s love and grace. That is very powerful.”
“The Lord comforts us with the sacrament,” says Fr. Nemanic. The words, “I absolve you from your sins,’ are almost incomprehensible to penitents who enter the confessional with heavy but contrite hearts, says the priest. “This sacrament is so far-reaching. When people hear those words, they experience the reality that Emmanuel is with us. The closer we are to Him, the more the penitent opens up his or her heart and the more the Lord can come into that space and heal.”
For many penitents, the experience of forgiveness can be transformative. Fr. Nemanic recalls a story shared by renowned Catholic theologian Bishop Fulton Sheen. Bishop Sheen said a psychiatrist friend once told him that he marveled at the impact of Reconciliation. Whereas his clients paid him for counsel, Catholic priests gave counsel and peace—for free.
Parishes in the Diocese of Calgary hold regular confessional hours during the week on a year-round basis. While penitents can trust the confessional as a sacred and confidential space, people who don’t want to confess their sins to a priest they know can go to another parish, or attend a penitential service and talk to a priest they don’t know, says Fr. Genogaling.
He and Fr. Nemanic also recognize that people aren’t necessarily comfortable making a Reconciliation while facing a priest—and that’s okay, too. “I would say that 75 per cent of the people who come to reconciliation at St. Michael’s stay behind the screen even though they could just walk around the partition,” says Fr. Nemanic.
Those tempted to shy away from Reconciliation after a bad experience should consider what’s at stake, notes Fr. Nemanic. As he sees it, most people have also had bad experiences in at least one restaurant, but that doesn’t keep them from ever enjoying another restaurant meal. The same logic should apply to not denying themselves the blessings of Reconciliation.
And what would he say to a Catholic who is worried about not having received the Sacrament of Reconciliation for a while? “I would say, ‘just come,’” says Fr. Nemanic. Those who go regularly do so because they understand the grace it bestows. “If people would give five minutes a month, their lives would change immeasurably for the better because they’ve made themselves available to encounter the Lord’s mercy.”
Since honesty and contrition are essential to a good confession, Fr. Genogaling encourages people to spend some time examining their conscience before entering the confessional.
Written by Joy Gregory for Faithfully
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers