Great news! The celebration of Sunday Mass has resumed at three hospitals on the First Sunday of Advent in the City of Calgary. Patients, family members and friends, and hospital staff are now able to avail of this pastoral outreach in the following facilities:
Watch this video and go beyond merely having a picture-perfect family Christmas dinner. Let Christ be at the center of all things.
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Christmas is a season and not just a day. Watch this video and learn more about the days of Christmas.
Consider these during the Christmas season
Celebrate how blessed we are with the gift of the Christ child not in a day but for a season. He is Immanuel, God-with-us.
Feasts during the Christmas season are about family, friendship, and the expression of gratitude, but for many of us, often these feasts can lead to overeating.
Watch the thought-provoking video by Fr. Mark Mary of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal on our relationship with food, material attachments, and our sisters and brothers in need.
Consider these when eating especially during the Christmas season...
Share with others the gift of food, made with an abundance of love.
Better is a dinner of vegetables where love is than a fatted ox and hatred with it."
Find links to blessings and other resources below to help you celebrate this special feast of Holy Family with your family and friends.
One of the only two Holy Days of obligation outside of Sundays in Canada is a Solemnity dedicated to Mary's motherhood. We close out the Christmas octave with a day to honour Mary as the Mother of God. Find links to blessings and other resources below to help you celebrate this special feast with your family, friends and community.
Epiphany means “manifestation”, that moment when we suddenly understand something that previously was hidden from us. Christmas is about the Incarnation, the coming down of the Son of God to become human, one of us. Epiphany is the showing of the Christ Child’s divinity, which is beginning to manifest itself in the world.
In his recent apostolic visit to Cyprus and Greece, Pope Francis addressed the youth...
"Realize that your worth is in who you are and not what you have. Your worth is not in the brand of the dress or shoes you wear, but because you are unique.
Here I think of another ancient image, that of the sirens. Like Odysseus on his voyage home, in the course of this life, which is an adventure-filled journey to the Father’s House, you too will come across sirens. In mythology, the sirens by their songs enchanted sailors and made them crash against the rocks.
Today’s sirens want to charm you with seductive and insistent messages that focus on easy gains, the false needs of consumerism, the cult of physical wellness, of entertainment at all costs... All these are like fireworks: they flare up for a moment, but then turn to smoke in the air. I understand, they are not easy to resist."
(Athens, December 6, 2021)
Consider these during Advent...
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4
In 2017, Canada Post broke a record for most parcels delivered in a day - 1.83 million. And this was pre-COVID. Watch this video and learn the best options out there for your Christmas shopping.
Consider these for faithful living:
Remember that Christmas ends after the the feast of the Baptism of the Lord on Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022. It does not matter what you give as presents for others. It's the heart and thought behind the gifts that matter.
Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." 2 Corinthians 9:7
Do you know that Christian-themed Christmas stamps are an example of successful resolutions by the Catholic Women's League (CWL) of Canada?
National CWL Resolution 1959.12 resolved "that The Catholic Women's League of Canada in 39th annual national convention assembled at Saint John, N.B., request the federal government to plan a Christmas stamp depicting a “Nativity Scene” to be issued in Canada annually during the month of December."
This was followed by their Resolution 1980.11 which resolved that "The national council of The Catholic Women's League of Canada, in 60th annual national convention assembled, do commend Canada Post for the issues of postage stamps with religious themes and do recommend that each year one or more of the Christmas stamps issued have such a theme." Resolution 2005.01 resolved "that the national council of The Catholic Women's League of Canada, in 85th annual national convention assembled, urge Canada Post to include a Nativity-related theme in its future Christmas stamp issues." All of these resolutions were archived in 2016 because the action requested has been accomplished. Canadians have had a Christmas-themed stamp for several years now and deeply grateful for the effort of CWL in the process.
Canada Post began the tradition of featuring Nativity art on stamps in 1965, with an issue featuring the Gifts of the Magi. In the years since, the Nativity Scene has been portrayed in children’s illustrations (1970, 1975) stained glass windows (1976, 1997), gouache illustrations (1977), early Renaissance paintings (1978), icons (1988), Aboriginal art (2002), and more. The stamps have provided excellent opportunities to celebrate the birth of Jesus through Canadian art.
Booklets of the 2020 Nativity stamp, the 2019 The Magi, the 2017 Adoration of the Shepherds and 2018 "Away in a Manger" are still available on the Canada Post website.
2021 Nativity Stamps
Celebrate Christmas with this booklet of 12 permanent domestic rate stamps from the 2021 Christmas (Angels) stamp issue. This year’s Christmas issue is inspired by the angels who served as messengers in the Nativity story. The stamp features a simple line depiction of a Christmas angel on a serene white background.
Montréal-based artist Stéphane Huot and illustrator Luc Melanson, who resides near Montréal, produced simple line drawings on a crisp white background, evoking purity and peace through the Christmas season. Beloved symbols at Christmas, angels played an integral part in the Nativity story. In the Bible, these celestial beings, whose name derives from the Greek word for messenger, often serve as benevolent intermediaries between God and humanity. According to the Gospel of Luke, it was the archangel Gabriel who told Mary she would give birth to Jesus, “Son of the Most High,” and when the day arrived, it was an angel who announced the good news to shepherds tending their flocks in the region. A choir of angels singing God’s praise appeared around the messenger angel, and then the awed shepherds departed for Bethlehem to worship the newborn king. (Source: Canada Post)
These stamps are available in outlets as well as through the Canada Post website. Some nativity stamps from previous years are still available through the Canada Post website.
Christmas: A Light of Faith, Hope, and Love in our World
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light… (Isaiah 9:2)
This Christmas Eve we will hear the words of the prophet Isaiah ring out “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light”. How does one begin to describe the experiences of this past year? It is as if a shadow has been cast over our lives by a “pandemic of darkness”. Many here and across the globe have lost their lives to COVID-19 with their families left to mourn their passing, many have survived the virus with lasting effects, and others have risked their lives to provide medical care and to conduct the scientific research leading to a vaccine. It has left many marked by profound sadness, isolation, and fear.
There is also some understandable impatience with the health precautions and restrictions that place limits on our normal ordinary human interactions such as work, social activities, family interactions, and religious gatherings. Yes, we all have had to make sacrifices.
It is into this world, here and now, that God’s love is being revealed. It is a light that comes to us in darkness.
The Nativity of Christ which we celebrate at Christmas is not merely a recollection of an historical event or of a birth which took place in the past. It fixes our gaze on the future, on his second coming at the end of the ages while acknowledging His presence here and now in our lives, each and every day. With the challenges that we have faced this year we might be tempted to give up, to not see Christmas and its celebration through this light of faith, hope and love.
A prayer to the Immaculate Conception beautifully captures the action of God and the docility of our Blessed Mother, “Father, the image of the Virgin is found in the Church. Mary had a faith that your Spirit prepared and a love that never knew sin, for you kept her sinless from the first moment of her conception. Trace in our actions the lines of her love, in our heart her readiness of faith”. God has traced the lines of Mary’s readiness of faith and love through our lives during this Advent season in the acts of love and sacrifice which each of us have freely accepted for the good and the wellbeing of others. They have probably gone unnoticed in the eyes of the world, much like Mary’s “fiat”, which was a simple response of yes to accepting the will of God. In our Catholic tradition, Mary has always been a type or model of the Church’s response to the will of God. As Mary came to believe, to conceive and to give birth to Jesus, the Son of God, this same action of God tracing His grace and love in our lives can come to birth this Christmas with a renewed sense of hope.
As St. Ambrose said, “You also are blessed because you have heard and believed. Home - I am Blessed 2020A soul that believes both conceives and brings forth the Word of God and acknowledges his works. Let Mary’s soul be in each of you to proclaim the greatness of God” (Office of Readings, Monday of the 4th Week of Advent). This year as we approach the celebration of Christmas, the I Am Blessed campaign of the Diocese is once again an opportunity to witness to our faith despite the suffering we may be experiencing, to recognize the blessings from God in the midst of our daily reality, and to seek out opportunities to be a blessing for others through prayer, giving, and in our acts of service for others.
As we prepare for Christmas, and the octave of this feast, let us rediscover how connected we are to one another. I invite us to experience in this coming year the hope that is found in the promises of God as did Mary. In the words of Pope Francis, Christmas is the feast that “returns us to the horizon of hope, a horizon that does not disappoint because it is founded on the Word of God” (Angelus, 1st Sunday of Advent, December 1, 2013). The incarnate Word, the nearness of God which we celebrate on the Solemnity of the Nativity of Jesus, has transformed human history and can restore in each of us this profound gift of hope.
In this time of pandemic when we look for that light in our darkness, I offer my Christmas greetings and heartfelt best wishes to all the faithful of the Diocese.
I express my gratitude and esteem for the witness of pastoral charity exhibited by the priests and the deacons who exercise the role of Christ the Servant, the presence of the religious communities that offer their unique charisms and a witness to holiness, the co-responsibility of the lay faithful - including the volunteers and parish staff - as a living sign of Christ in the world, the role of the teachers and catechists in our schools and parishes, and the essential gift of family life that is shared so readily in an expression of sacrificial love and an openness to new life. Finally, to those who have both in the past and now serve at the Catholic Pastoral Centre, I am grateful for the dedication and cooperation that is expressed in our desire to be of service to the parishes of the Diocese in these challenging times. May God bestow his blessings upon all of us as we look forward in faith, hope and love to the coming year.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+ William T. McGrattan
Bishop of Calgary
Download Letter in PDF
Though we all have new restrictions being put into place for the pandemic, it need not be the same for our preparations for Advent. Advent still remains a joyful season. A time to prepare our hearts and our homes for the coming of infant Jesus. What is more simple than a child? God Almighty presents himself to us in the form of a child, approachable, little and simple. God works outside of time, He sees all things and knows all things. He has known that we would go through this season with a different approach and perhaps that is precisely how He intended it.
To approach this season without the hustle and bustle we typically endure, the endless wrapping, the loud and busy households with tons of visitors coming in and out for the holidays. We have been permitted such a time as this, peeling away at what has become the norm of chaos, back to the simplicity of our nuclear families or even just our single households. This season may have a different feel to it, more solemn, more quiet, but all the more able to be attentive. Attentive to the details of your home, relationships with people and especially to the coming of infant Jesus.
If you have yet to decorate your home or begin your Advent preparations, here are a few great local resources:
Written by Rikka Borras, Beloved Daughters YYC
Christmas time is such a beautiful time. I think of Mary often and wonder about the night she gave birth to Jesus. Did she look at him with awe? Did she stare at his button nose? Did she tickle his little toes? Did she put one finger in his little hand as his fingers wrapped around hers? Did she rub his hair and hold him tight? Did she cry? Did she say out loud, “This is my boy!”?
I am so blessed to be a mom of four beautiful kids. With each one I remember just staring at them through the night in awe of God and his blessings. Thinking that Mary was a mother just like me puts the very first Christmas in such a different light. Do we consider the anticipation that Mary and Joseph felt while waiting for the birth of Jesus? And the joy they experienced when he was born! As a parent, I know that this waiting time was very special.
A book that I read to my Kindergarten students is Little One, We Knew You’d Come, by Sally-Lloyd Jones. I invite the children to bring a baby picture to class and encourage parents to have a conversation with their child about the anticipation they felt as they waited for their child to arrive.
Do we take the time and look at the children we teach as the blessing that they are?
My sister (a doctor) just told me about a funeral she attended recently, for an eight-year-old girl. Fifteen hundred people were there. She loved school so much that she came hooked up to an oxygen tank to help her breathe. The principal moved his desk outside the teacher’s door in case the little girl needed help. Her parents spent the days at the school reading books and newspapers while their daughter was in class. Any moment could be her last. Everyone waited. Just like her parents had waited for nine months for her to be born – although this waiting was going to end with a goodbye. She went to school Friday, blueish because her lungs were failing. Her dying wish was to go to school. She would never miss the Remembrance Day Assembly. She LOVED school. She died two days later.
Staff and families did not know that Friday would be their last day with this eight-year-old girl. The principal was asked to give the eulogy at the funeral. Everyone in the school was there. She loved stuffies, and her parents brought every stuffy she owned. When the children came in the church, they were offered a stuffy to cuddle. One last act of love… to love the things she loved most!
This Christmas, let us be mindful of the impact and privilege we have to be a teacher or work in a school. We play such an important role in bringing joy to the families of the students we teach. Families send their precious little ones (or big ones) to us daily to love, teach, support, help and nurture. Each child is a gift. God’s gift. Our mission is to look into the eyes of every child we teach and see the face of God. It is a blessing to be a teacher, a coach, a support worker, an administrator and custodial staff. We all have an opportunity to celebrate the life of a child.
Many Calgary Catholics are pushing through the coldest week of the new year by holding onto fond memories of the Christmas past. Others in the city’s East Asian communities keep themselves warm by anticipating the opportunity to celebrate the Lunar New Year on Saturday, Jan. 25. Ditto for parishioners at other ethnic parishes in the Diocese, where being Catholic and Canadian means you can commemorate important secular events with festivities that include prayerful appreciation of the cultural traditions that moved to Canada with their families.
Calgary’s Korean, Chinese and Vietnamese communities celebrate the Lunar New Year on the second new moon after the winter solstice. At St. Anne’s Korean Catholic Church in the community of Ramsay, parishioners will welcome the Lunar New Year with special prayers at the 11 a.m. mass on Sunday, Jan. 26, says parishioner and parish spokesman Nes (Luke) Noh. That service will be followed by a traditional New Year’s Day meal of rice cakes and soup in the parish hall. The rice cakes will come from a Korean market, the soup from parishioners. “We expect about 300 people,” says Noh. “No matter what the weather, people like to get together to celebrate. It’s tradition.”
Culturally, the Lunar New Year is also a good time to honour the memory of ancestors, so Korean Catholics will also offer prayers for their deceased family members, says Noh.
Week of Prayer about a shared faith
This year’s Lunar New Year falls at the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, says Theodoric Nowak, Director of Social Justice and Outreach Ministries with the Calgary Catholic Diocese. This year’s Week of Prayer, set for Jan. 18 to 25, calls for Christians to move from shared prayer to shared action. The theme also challenges Christians to show greater generosity to people in need. “In a Diocese as diverse as Calgary’s, it’s always important to remember the different backgrounds which people come from and the traditions they hold,” says Nowak. “The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity reminds us that despite the differences which exist between cultures and denominations, we find unity in our love of Christ and commitment to achieving the common good.” In addition to prayers for the faithful being offered for Christian Unity, the FCJ Centre and Ascension Parish will each host prayer events, adds Nowak.
Cultural and spiritual traditions
New Year celebrations at St. Stephen Protomartyr Church also reflect cultural and spiritual traditions, says Fr. Gregory Faryna. The Jan. 1 liturgy at this Ukrainian Catholic church in Glamorgan, celebrated the naming of Jesus and the feast of St. Basil the Great. An early Church father who defended the orthodox faith, St. Basil the Great is especially important to Albertans of Ukrainian heritage. At Fr. Albert Lacombe’s request, St. Basil sent Basilian priests to the Edmonton area to serve European Catholics who came from the Byzantine tradition, explains Fr. Faryna.
As the Ukrainian people historically followed the Julian calendar, Fr. Faryna’s parish also marked the Ukrainian New Year. While the actual date was Jan. 13, St. Stephen held a Ukrainian New Year banquet and dance on Friday, Jan. 8. About 200 people filled the parish hall for the event, which included a performance by a local Ukrainian dance group. Since many parish families are compromised of Ukrainians who married outside that ethnic group, events like these are an important way of sharing cultural traditions, says Fr. Faryna.
The Ukrainian New Year was also part of the Sunday liturgy on Jan. 12. There, the community offered special prayers for world peace and prayers for lives lost in the Ukrainian airliner shot down in Iran earlier this month.
Ukrainian Catholics approach each new year with prayers that honour the past year and help people prepare for the year to come, adds Fr. Faryna. Some families also commemorate the new year by performing or attending a traditional Malanka (which means new year) play. The play reminds people living through the long nights of winter that spring is on its way. “It’s that anticipation of new life that’s coming around the corner,” says Fr. Faryna.
Over at Ste.-Famille Church just south of the downtown core, Msgr. Noel Farman says the arrival of 2020 got him thinking about how important his parish is to the local francophone community. Ste.-Famille is the only French-language parish in Calgary. Many of the children Msgr. Farman met when he arrived at Ste.-Famille 11 years ago are now adult parishioners attending post-secondary schools or working. “This Christmas I told them, ‘I consider myself as your grandfather.’”
As with Korean-speaking parishioners at St. Anne’s parish, Msgr. Farman knows many of his parishioners make a special effort to attend a French-language mass for special events, including Christmas and New Year’s. At this year’s Christmas Eve mass, children gathered around the priest’s chair and treated mass attendees to a special performance. “It was like a dialogue between three candles representing faith, hope and love,” says the priest. The recitation ended with the candles representing faith and love declaring that hope brought them together to help each other.
This Christmas season, Ste.-Famille weathered the deaths of four people with close ties to the parish. Msgr. Farman says he was touched by how so many of his parishioners travelled to funerals in Edmonton and Claresholm to show their solidarity to each other and to their faith. “I was thinking, this is how we show our belief in eternity, we pray for those who have passed.”
For more information on this 2020 Week of Prayer for Christian unity, please download this poster.
By: Joy Gregory
An early family Christmas weekend this year brought special blessings to our family. My three children, their spouses, our seven grandchildren, my husband and I gathered at our family cabin at Pigeon Lake for some time together, exchange of presents and Christmas fun. On the agenda was mass at 10 a.m. Sunday morning at St. Theresa’s Church in Mameo Beach. Even though the little ones (seven children under five years old) were up at 6 a.m., it was still a scramble to get us all dressed, strapped into car seats and to the church on time. With just minutes to spare, we walked through the doors of St Theresa where the ushers met us with warm smiles and a sincere welcome. “Would you like to bring up the gifts?” they asked. My husband agreed and said he would bring the four boys (all 3-4 years old) with him.
We seated ourselves at the front in the hopes that the kids would be more attentive. Armed with coloring pages, stickers and some goldfish snacks we settled in. Mass was beautiful and the gathering of parishioners was intimate. There were a few squawks and cries from the front row but all in all the kids did pretty well. During the offertory, my husband took the four boys to the back of the church. Never one to be left behind, within seconds little Abby (19 months) was on her way as well, so her mom moved quickly to follow her.
The parishioners beamed as my husband and daughter walked up the aisle with the bread and wine. The kids followed. During communion, Father blessed every child individually as he placed his hand on each little head and said, “May the Baby Jesus bless you.” As mass came to a close, the usher came to the front and asked if there was anyone with an upcoming birthday. One of the ladies raised her hand, and he responded that we would now sing the blessing song to the birthday girl. In the same breath, he turned to us and he added, “And I think we should bless this family and all the little ones who have brought us such joy this mass.” The entire congregation raised their hands and sang the blessing song to us and the special parishioner. Amazing!
As Father began his closing prayer he turned to our family and said, “These children are the future of the church, and we are so glad that you brought them all to mass today.” The entire congregation applauded, and we were invited to stay for cookies and coffee and the decorating of the Church for Christmas. As a mother and an educator, I know that early childhood experiences form children. I also know that children are spiritual beings who instinctively love God and all of His creation. Having my whole family together at this mass and to be so warmly welcomed by St Theresa’s community was a gift beyond words. Thank you, St. Theresa’s for embracing us and blessing us so kindly.
By: Bonnie Annicchiarico
With the disappearance of decorated Christmas trees from bay windows and the appearance of dried up evergreen trees free of ornaments, tinsel and lights now lying on our curbs we can easily perceive an atmospheric change in focus. However, Liturgically, Christmas ends with the Baptism of the Lord, which falls on Sunday, January 12.
So, even if your Christmas trees have come down and decorations have been returned to storage, we invite you to consider keeping out the Christmas crèche a while longer and placing it in a prominent place in your home where you can gather with family and pray.
You may light a candle (mindful of everyone’s safety) and pray these words…
“O God, who were pleased to give us the shining example of the Holy Family, graciously grant that we may imitate them in practising the virtues of family life and in the bonds of charity, and so, in the joy of your house, delight one day in eternal rewards. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. ”
Did you know that the Vatican has their life-size nativity scene up until February 2?
Just as the Blessed Virgin spent 40 days contemplating the Divine Fruit of her womb before going to the temple to fulfil the Law, we also can ponder, explore, and live out the fruit of the Incarnation in the period of Ordinary Time leading up to the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord on February 2. While this feast day is not part of the Christmas season, it is a feast that points back to Christmas and leads us forward to Easter.
And so, building on the #I Am Blessed campaign, we invite you and your family to keep in mind the words of Pope Francis: “The nativity scene is like a living Gospel rising up from the pages of sacred Scripture. As we contemplate the Christmas story, we are invited to set out on a spiritual journey, drawn by the humility of the God who became man in order to encounter every man and woman” Pope Francis, Admirabile Signum.
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
The holy days of the Christmas season are upon us.
This year, at the Vigil Mass for the Nativity of Our Lord, we hear the familiar narrative from Matthew’s Gospel of Jesus’ humble birth among us in fulfillment of the scriptural promises. Joseph, a “righteous man” is faced with a situation he does not fully understand and yet in the simple words of the Gospel, “he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him.” And in that moment, Joseph becomes a model of trusting in God and following His Will.
These inspiring events of Mary and Joseph, annunciations and dreams, angels and shepherds, stars and adoring magi serve to captivate our imaginations and invite us to celebrate the profound simplicity of God’s presence among us as a humble and innocent child. The Son of God is born into the human world and gives flesh to God’s saving power. These scripture passages announce hopeful messages of “Peace on Earth,” “Good will to all,” and the absolute steadfastness of God’s promise to save His people. Indeed, such messages of “Good News” are welcomed among the poor, the vulnerable, and all of us who recognize the need for God’s salvific love in our lives.
This year Pope Francis, in speaking to the United Nations, offered the following reflection about Christmas:
“These are days in which we raise our eyes to heaven and commend to God those people and situations that are closest to our heart. In this gaze, we acknowledge ourselves to be sons and daughters of one Father, brothers and sisters. We give thanks for all the goodness present in this world, and for all those who freely give of themselves, those who spend their lives in service to others, those who do not give up but keep trying to build a more humane and just society. We know well that we cannot be saved alone. … May Christmas, in its authentic simplicity, remind us that the most important thing in life is love.” (Pope Francis, December 20, 2019.)
As our communities in Faith look heavenward at Christmas, let us invite the Christ child to be born into our hearts spiritually, to transform our lives, and to strengthen the witness of our faith so that we might grow in humility and confidence as missionaries of charity for our brothers and sisters. May we proclaim His Birth with great joy and announce the saving love of Jesus Christ in the daily living of our lives.
I offer you the assurance of my prayers as you gather with family and friends to celebrate these holy days of Christmas.
Yours in Christ,
+ Most Reverend William McGrattan
Bishop of the Diocese of Calgary
December 24, 2019
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers