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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.
Prayer for the happy repose of Her Majesty The Queen
Almighty God, You are the author and sustainer of all human life;
grant that your servant, Elizabeth our Queen,
whom you granted a long and happy reign as Monarch
of these lands may be forgiven her sins
and rewarded with that eternal life
promised to all those born again in the water of baptism
and power of your Spirit.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
Who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit God, forever and ever, Amen.
Eternal rest, grant to her O Lord, And let Perpetual light shine upon her.
May she rest in peace. Amen. May her soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed,
Through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
Psalm 121 (A Song of Ascents)
I lift up my eyes to the mountains;
from where shall come my help?
My help shall come from the Lord
who made heaven and earth.
May he never allow you to stumble!
Let him sleep not your guard.
No, he sleeps not nor slumbers,
The Lord your guard and your shade; at your right side he stands.
By day the sun shall not smite you, nor the moon in the night.
The Lord will guard you from evil;
he will guard your soul.
The Lord will guard your going and coming,
both now and forever.
Canticle of Simeon (Luke 2:29-32)
At last, all-powerful Master,
you give leave to your servant to go in peace,
according to your promise.
For my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared for all nations,
the light to enlighten the Gentiles and give glory to Israel, your people.
Prayer for the Royal Family
Almighty God, source of all consolation,
we pray for the members of the Royal Family who mourn the loss
of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.
Uphold them in your love and pour out on them the consolation of your healing Spirit.
Let them find in your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ
comfort in their sadness, certainty in their doubt
and courage to live through this hour.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Prayer for the King
O God, to whom every human power is subject,
Grant to your servant His Majesty the King
success in the exercise of his high office,
so that, always revering to you and striving to please you,
he may constantly secure and preserve for the people entrusted to his care
the freedom that comes from civil peace.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit
God, forever and ever, Amen.
A message from Bishop Raymond Poisson, President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) on the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Prayer for the happy repose of HM The Queen and Prayer for the Royal Family: from the website of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.
Men from the God Squad and several Catholic churches in the Calgary Diocese recently came together to give an old church a facelift in Brocket, Alberta, located on the Piikani Nation between Fort Macleod and Pincher Creek.
The work done at St. Paul’s was more than just some exterior painting and repairs. It was also symbolic.
Deacon Tom O’Toole, who is assigned to St. Paul’s, said the parish is a community of elders and it doesn’t have all the resources within the Nation to handle some of these bigger projects.
“We think it’s an opportunity in the spirit of truth and reconciliation to show the universality of the Church in its beauty and diversity,” said O’Toole, who has been at the parish for about six or seven years. “They did some of the harder work that we were not able to accomplish on our own but we gave them something too.
“We paid them with our affection. We fed them. They brought their own food. But we participated in that. And our elders were here. It wasn’t just a simple act of splashing paint on a building. It rolled up into a bigger purpose which is to bring all God’s people together and show the beauty. These people who came from St. Peter’s, I’ve known them for a long time. So I’m not surprised how fantastic they are and a few of them have come to help before so they’re not a stranger here either. That to me is how relationship is built and how truth and reconciliation makes its way around the bases so to speak.”
During his ministry as a Deacon, O’Toole has also been assigned in the past to St. Peter’s.
Sean Lynn, who spearheads the God Squad organization, said about a dozen volunteers came out in late August to do some work on the aging St. Paul’s building.
“It was a great opportunity for us to put into action a love for the Church and reach out to the First Nations’ community showing that we want to work with them, we want to start those conversations, we want to be present in their community. And the Church, it’s a way of reopening the dialogue with them,” explained Lynn.
Lynn also wanted to give a big shout out to Dan Lebsack of Cougar Painting, who joined the work crew for the St. Paul’s initiative, offering his professional experience, advice and expertise as well as his painting skills.
“They did great work. A great service that we all appreciate. I announced it in the church,” said Rev. Roy Jayamaha, of St. Paul’s. “We really appreciated their great efforts. It was a wonderful thing. They put their heart and soul and work for our community. It was a great thing.
“We believe that the door to salvation is always open and so are the doors to our church. Our mission is to be fully devoted to Jesus by opening our arms to those in search of the truth. We show God’s love and concern for our fellow humanity at every opportunity. Through works of charity and opening our doors to listen and love, we feel that we are walking in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.”
The God Squad, a Catholic men’s organization, whose vision through the guidance of St. Joseph, is to form and strengthen men, inspiring them to embrace God’s vocation in their lives.
Other volunteers included people from St. Peter’s, Holy Spirit and St. James churches in Calgary as well as St. Mary’s in Brooks.
Father Roy was originally from Sri Lanka and arrived in the Calgary Diocese in 2014 after having worked as a missionary in Pakistan for 38 years. Bishop Frederick Henry appointed him pastor of St. Paul’s in January 2016.
“My prayer for this community is that together we will rediscover the joy of the Gospel, bringing many people back to church by our personal witness. The youth and children are our future and together we must strive to find new ways and means to share God’s love for creation. My faith tells me, it is the work of the Lord we are doing and He will guide our steps forward,” said Father Roy.
On September 25, the Church will mark the 108th World Day of Migrants and Refugees. It is an occasion to express our concern for the many vulnerable people on the move, to pray for them as they face many challenges, and to increase awareness about the opportunities that migration offers. The Holy Father has chosen “Building the Future with Migrants and Refugees” as the theme for his message this year.
Since 1979, private sponsors have resettled over 350k refugees to Canada. This is a remarkable accomplishment for Canadians. Eighteen Catholic organizations (Dioceses, Religious congregations, and other groups) across Canada currently work as Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAHs).
It is estimated that there are currently over 89 million people who have been forced from their homes, of which over 36 million have fled their homelands. This terrible situation is made even worse in recent months with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, forcing millions of Ukrainians to flee their home country.
As Pope Francis has said, “In turbulent times we are to re-commit to the journey of building the kingdom”. The Holy Father has chosen “Building the Future with Migrants and Refugees” as the theme for his message this year.
The Paradoxical Commandments
On this 25th anniversary of Mother Teresa’s death, Bishop McGrattan highlights the words of “The Paradoxical Commandments,” embraced by this saint of the poor.
When Mother Teresa first heard these words, written by Dr. Kent M. Keith, an American lawyer, writer and leader in higher education, she was moved to put them on the wall of one of her homes for children in Kolkata. They are a sure guideline for finding personal meaning in the face of adversity and transcend all creeds and cultures. They very aptly describe Mother Teresa’s way of dealing with such a huge number of people throughout her lifetime.
Feeling socially anxious? This video may help.
Learn about the spotlight effect and see if this applies to you and your thoughts. If it does, calm down, walk into the room, and be yourself.
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers