Sunday of the Word of God
Pope Francis has declared that the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time is to be devoted to the celebration, study and dissemination of the word of God “that the life of our people be constantly marked by this decisive relationship with the living word that the Lord never tires of speaking to his Bride” (Aperuit Illis, 2). In 2023 the Sunday of the Word of God falls on January 22.
Download: 2023 Liturgical/Pastoral Resource from the Dicastery for Evangelization for Sunday of the Word of God
Here are five liturgical suggestions for making the most of this universal invitation from the Pontiff.
Focus on the centrality of the Bible for Christians. In the Gospel, Jesus quotes what we heard in the first reading from the Prophet Isaiah. The word of the prophet is the foundation for his teaching and the call of the first disciples. In the second reading Paul tells the Corinthians that Jesus did not send him to baptize but to proclaim the Gospel and that “it is the power of God”.
2. Bless Ministers of the Word
Following the Homily, invite ministers of the Word to stand (e.g. lectors, psalmists, leaders in RCIA, liturgy of the word for children, and scripture study). Bless them with hands extended:
Blessed are you, Lord God,
Source of all light and all goodness,
you sent your Son, your living Word,
to reveal to humanity the mystery of your love.
Look with mercy upon these women and men who proclaim your word
and lead your people closer to your teaching.
Bless X them in their ministry
so that they may be nourished by your Word,
be transformed by it and faithfully announce it
to their brothers and sisters in your Church.
We praise and thank you, Father,
in the name of Jesus your Son,
and in the love of your Holy Spirit,
God of glory for ever and ever.
Adapted from the blessing of lectors in Celebrations of Installation and Recognition, copyright Concacan Inc.,2005. All rights reserved.
3. Universal Prayer
Introduction to the petitions:
Dear sisters and brothers,
nourished and formed by God’s Word
let us bring our needs and petitions before Him.
In addition to the petitions you have prepared for today, include some for the Word of God to come to life in your community, for example:
Prayer at the end of the petitions:
Grant, O God, that our lives be marked by your living word.
Hear these, our prayers,
and help us to proclaim the good news of the kingdom.
Through Christ our Lord.
4. Eucharistic Prayer
You might use Eucharistic Prayer III for Various Needs and Occasions (Jesus the Way to the Father). Its Preface focuses on Christ as the “Word” of God. Roman Missal p.764ff.
5. Enthroning the Bible (For use in homes, schools, and with RCIA or Bible Study groups)
The faithful have shown reverence to the bible as the inspired word of God since ancient times. The enthronement of an open bible has often served as a symbolic invitation to delve into the sacred text as the source of our spiritual life. You might use this short ritual from the American Bible Society to enthrone the Bible at home, in schools, and with RCIA or Bible Study groups.
6. More Resources
Entering the Ordinary Time
How to set resolutions?
In memoriam: Pope Benedict XVI
Today (Dec. 31, 2022) we join Pope Francis and Catholics across the world in mourning the death of Pope Benedict XVI who has gone home to the God he served faithfully.
The funeral of Pope Benedict XVI has been scheduled for Thursday, January 5, 2023 at 9:30 am (Rome time) or 1:30 am MT, presided by Pope Francis. His body will lie in state at St. Peter’s Basilica starting Monday morning (January 2). The Pope Emeritus had asked that things be as simple as possible for his funeral arrangements.
Let us pray: For all who have died, especially those we remember in our community and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, that through the Lord’s Passion and Cross they may behold the glory of His Resurrection, we pray to the Lord…
December 31, 2022
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
While we mourn the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, we do so with profound gratitude to God for the life of service exemplified by His faithful servant. At the general audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis invited the faithful to ask the Lord that the Pope Emeritus, “who in silence is supporting the Church” will be sustained “in this witness of love for the Church, until the end.” In this we see, that even in retirement, the Pope Emeritus demonstrated humility and obedience as that of a servant of Christ and His Church.
I will also remember with gratitude that it was during his pontificate that I received the call to the episcopacy. Shortly after my ordination I then had the privilege of meeting him in person where I received his fraternal encouragement and prayers in becoming a successor of the apostles. This will always leave a mark on my ministry as bishop.
Pope Benedict XVI will be remembered as one of the great theologians of our time and a prolific writer who published books in theology, gave many speeches that engaged his audiences intellectually and on broad range of topics, and issued three encyclicals that were received not only by Catholics but by people of many faiths and beliefs and within various sectors of society.
The significance of the contributions of Pope Benedict XVI to the Church and the world will continue to unfold over time as history is judged by future generations. The words he had written and spoken throughout his pontificate are rich in meaning and originated from deep spiritual and intellectual truths.
In his address to the youth who were gathered in Madrid for World Youth Day 2011, which was briefly interrupted by a rainstorm that had suddenly come to a full stop, Pope Benedict XVI resumed praising the youth for their strength which he described as “stronger than the rain.” He then exhorted them to be grounded in Christ, “may no adversity paralyze you. Be afraid neither of the world, nor of the future, nor of your weakness. The Lord has allowed you to live in this moment of history so that, by your faith, his name will continue to resound throughout the world.” These words seem to have been a personal reflection of his life in that while he had envisioned a quiet of life of retirement, he instead received the call from God in the later stages of his life to become the Vicar of Christ. His service as pope was his contribution to the ongoing plan of God for the Church.
In the words of the Collect for the Mass for the Dead, of a pope, we pray…
O God, who in your wondrous providence
chose your servant Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI to preside over
your Church, grant, we pray,
that, having served as the Vicar of your son on earth,
he may be welcomed by him into eternal glory.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the holy spirit,
God, for ever and ever.
May he rest in peace.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+William T. McGrattan
Bishop of Calgary
Photo credit: Wikimedia
A light in the darkness
This is supposed to be a Christmas party, but among the seated rows of female inmates women are sobbing quietly. As they cry, a sympathetic arm might be briefly placed around someone’s shoulder or a toilet roll passed from hand to hand to wipe up tears.
On a bitterly cold night in December, I was privileged to attend the 2022 Christmas service at the Lethbridge Correctional Centre. Here I am witnessing the dichotomy of life in prison – isolation within community, loneliness with companionship, abandonment but also accompaniment. This is the essence of prison ministry.
The Lethbridge Correctional Centre houses inmates serving sentences of less than two years. According to the Alberta Government website, it has a capacity of just under 400 persons. For the past six years the Centre’s coordinating chaplain has been Rev. Anna Braun, a Baptist Minister. During the Covid lockdown, Braun and a co-chaplain ministered to the prison population on their own, (a time Braun discovered to be surprisingly meaningful). However, now that restrictions are lifted, ministry volunteers from several area churches are once again active within the prison community. Among them is a Catholic group, Friends of the Lethbridge Correctional Centre, presently led by Jim and Helen Manzara from All Saints Parish. They are supported by other volunteers from both Lethbridge parishes. These stalwarts lead worship services once a month and rosary prayer twice a week. In addition, Father Derek Remus hears confessions and participates in a program called Exploring Your Faith which is part teaching and Q&A.
Once a year all the Christian denominations gather to present a Christmas Service which includes carol singing, an inspirational message, and treat bags for the inmates and staff alike. This service is unusual in that it includes the entire prison population unlike the weekly services at which attendance is voluntary.
Visiting a jail can be daunting initially. I was asked to leave all personal possessions in a locker. After signing in and passing through a metal detector, I was escorted by a guard along wide hallways to a brightly-lit gymnasium. The gym had been gaily decorated earlier by some of the female inmates. There was even a Navajo themed crèche.
For the first while volunteers formed an assembly line to fill paper bags with donated treats like foodstuff, stationery and (separately) coveted bars of Irish Spring soap! Each brown sack had been painstakingly decorated by an elementary school student. They displayed messages of hope, Scripture verses, and even corny jokes. Braun explained that the students knew who they were creating the bags for and put their hearts into the task.
Once the bags were filled a small group of volunteers departed to bring music and treats to the segregated units. As the gym door closed behind them, a ripple of anticipation ran through the remaining volunteers. Musicians took their places and singers gathered around. Suddenly the gym door was unlocked and the first unit entered. Men dressed in blue jumpsuits or dark sweats, with ubiquitous orange plastic clogs clustered onto a section of bleachers. As carol singing commenced, I saw toes tapping, swaying to the beat and the occasional person singing along. One unit had a ‘choir’ who sang Silent Night beautifully. Appreciative applause followed every song. Then Braun rose to offer a few words, her familiarity with the prisoners immediately apparent.
She spoke about Jesus being poor, homeless, misunderstood and rejected by his community. She reminded everyone that Jesus came to bring light for our world and that each of us can be a bearer of light too. She said, “If you think you can’t be a light in this place just stand in a dark cell and look at that thin strip of light under the door. See what an impact a little light can have.”
To another group Braun quoted John 3:17, telling them that though the judicial system might have condemned them, Jesus did not. One of the most affecting moments came when Braun told a women’s unit, “When you think about the birth of Jesus, one little baby doesn’t seem significant. Until you have one, then you realize it’s everything.” It was immediately clear from the tearful reactions how many people were struck by the comparison. After her message, Braun led each group in a cheerful rendition of This Little Light of Mine and the inmates left smiling, expressing thanks for their gift bags and offering good wishes to all.
The powerful message of Christmas seems to fade in the cold months which follow; perhaps more quickly in jail than elsewhere because residents are so isolated. All the more reason for Christians to heed Jesus’ words, “I was in prison and you came to visit me” (Matthew 25:36).
Post-Covid there is a pressing need for more volunteers in prison ministry. I asked a couple of the current volunteers what they enjoy most about the work. Repeatedly I heard how thankful the prisoners were.
“The happy faces”, Helen Manzara said.
“They are not a captive audience but they are captivating in so many ways”, Esther Lambert said.
Lambert went on to elaborate, “There are often of a mindset that they are not lovable, not worthy. When I explain that I come to see them because in them I see the face of God, their expressions turn me to tears. I know of no other group where I would experience that love and appreciation.”
So as you make your 2023 resolutions, please consider becoming a “light in the darkness” and thereby finding Jesus among those who are imprisoned.
Unpacking Christmas Day
The Feast of Stephen the Protomartyr invites us all to give witness to our faith in the newborn king.
For the last years I have been blest to study in Rome, where St. Stephen’s Day stands with Christmas as a second occasion of celebration. If Christmas belongs to more close-knit family gatherings, various more public and religious encounters mark the following feast in the Italian culture. Well-wishers gather with friends and fill the piazzas and streets. Faithful may take the time to visit the nativity scenes in churches along with attending the liturgical celebrations dedicated to the saint.
We read the account of the testimony of St. Stephen in the Acts of the Apostles. The group of twelve called the saint to serve as a deacon with six others while they kept busy proclaiming God’s word. We discover in the narrative that Stephen bestowed great skills as an orator. In a testimony to the high priest, he traces God work through salvation history, revealing how Jesus fulfills God’s plans through the people of Israel. In particular, the text of Acts goes to lengths to point out that the Holy Spirit accompanies him and guides him. Inspired by God’s Spirit, St. Stephen offers his life with words that reflect those of Christ — “receive my spirit” — but now he does so as a prayer in the Saviour’s name — “Lord Jesus” (Acts 7:59).
The testimony of St. Stephen has a particular relevance in the city of Rome. One of its churches, the Basilica of St. Lawrence or San Lorenzo, remains the one of the places in the world where the faithful have traditionally revered his relics. Recently I visited this ancient site, which was originally founded by the emperor Constantine and has been rebuilt in the following centuries.
The building now has a medieval feel to it (see below). It has solid brick walls that encompass its wonders of ancient columns and mosaic floors. From the entrance of the basilica, one’s eyes rise to its elevated altar — marked by four columns that support a weighty canopy. The altar sits overtop of a lower space, an inner sanctuary that houses the relics of St. Stephen as well as his fellow deacon martyr, St. Lawrence. They remain together as two deacon martyrs of the early church.
The church of Santo Stefano Rotondo also has a particular attachment to the saint. The building dates to the fifth century and it remains the earliest church in the city built on a circular floor plan. While the church also reveres St. Stephen of Hungary, and has served the Hungarian community in Rome for the last five hundred years, it nonetheless houses a moving mural depiction of the protomartyr Stephen. It presents him serenely looking up to heaven, wearing the dalmatic vestment of the deacon, while his aggressors are weighed down with anger and stones as they try to establish their own form of justice.
For most of us the Feast of Stephen the Protomartyr pales under the piles of boxes and the other colours that mark our Christmas celebrations. Yet the date remains an invitation for us to let the birth of Jesus transform the way we live the rest of the year. St. Ambrose articulates the faith that animated the martyr: “Christ is everything for us. If you are in need of help, he is strength. If you are afraid of death, he is life. If you desire heaven, he is the way. If you want to get away from darkness, he is the light” (On Virginity, 16). Let us take a moment this day to ask for the intercession of St. Stephen. May he help us find in Christ the pattern of love and sacrifice that brings meaning to each moment of every day.
Prison Ministry Lay Volunteers
Volunteering Opportunities at Calgary Remand Centre
Volunteering Opportunities at Calgary Correctional Centre
As with any volunteering opportunities, we require a Vulnerable Sector Police Information Check (VSPIC), the completion of the Praesidium Academy sexual abuse prevention training, and the agreement to the Code of Pastoral Conduct and Accountability for Volunteers. This information will be provided to you after submitting your application.
Watch this video and go beyond merely having a picture-perfect family Christmas dinner. Let Christ be at the center of all things.
Let's hang out with the Sisters
An invitation from Sr. Dianne Turner (Assistant Vocation Director of the Diocese of Calgary) to young and unmarried women:
Maybe you have a sister, and you have fun times with her, but this is about Religious Sisters having fun together, you know, the ones people call Nuns (though Nuns are a type of Religious Sisters who live a cloistered life in a monastery. If you want to know more about this distinction, just ask). So, we Sisters decided that we would gather for a night of fun and conversation, pizza supper, and Night Prayer. Personally, I am looking forward to playing some games because I truly enjoy card games, board games, charades, etc.
Then we thought it would be great to invite young, unmarried women to hang out with us for this evening, so that we could get to know each other in a lighter setting and build our friendship. What a blessing it would be to meet young women who want to get to know us. It's an opportunity to make new friends, and catch up with some old acquaintances!
Perhaps you have questions you would like answered without anyone knowing that you are talking to the Sisters. Maybe you want to meet Sisters from a variety of communities. You might simply want to have a lovely evening of free pizza and conversation, fun activities, and night prayer at the end. You might even consider bringing along a friend and your favourite game to play with the Sisters. What could be a better way to spend a Friday evening?
The FCJ Sisters have kindly offered Sacred Heart Convent for the evening, located behind St. Mary’s Cathedral at 219-19th Avenue SW, Calgary from 6 to 9 p.m. on Friday, January 13, 2023.
Please let us know if you are coming by Thursday, January 12, 2023, by contacting Sr. Dianne at 403-218-5504 or email email@example.com so that we can order the right amount of pizza (meatless of course, because it is Friday).
Advent can be an emotionally-turbulent time for Catholics who value the Church’s call to serve the poor. Inundated by the Yuletide appeals of worthy organizations, a simple walk through a local shopping mall can overwhelm the heart.
Leaders with the Catholic Diocese of Calgary understand the angst. For those who want to add an international charity to their gift-giving, they also offer a solution, Mission Mexico.
Mission Mexico is a registered charitable organization with deep ties to the faithful in southern Alberta. The charity began in 2000 with the support of Fr. Fred Monk, now retired. Familiar with missionary work in Mexico, the priest linked his fundraising efforts to build a new Catholic church in Cochrane to a project to help some of North America’s poorest people.
While donations have declined in recent years, Mission Mexico has raised more than $5 million since its launch. Much of that was raised in loonies donated by Catholic parishioners and school students in Calgary, says Mike MacDonald, Mission Mexico's on-site director. A former high school teacher in Calgary, MacDonald moved to Mexico more than 40 years ago. Until 2013, he served a Catholic bishop whose diocese, headquartered in the city of Tlapa de Comonfort, includes an impoverished region in the State of Guerrero.
Education and health
Mission Mexico focused its efforts on education and health. In the village of Potoichan, MM helped build a high school that takes up to 240 students a year, with 140 living in dormitories. The students, who come from indigenous mountain villages, learn academics and Spanish at a school run by Mexican religious brothers from the Marist congregation. Spanish instruction is essential, since many students come to the high school with little understanding of that language. While Mexico recognizes more than 60 native languages, students must speak Spanish to qualify for university.
Speaking to Calgary Catholic school students during a November visit to Calgary, MacDonald is full of stories about the transformative impact of education. He talks about young people studying to be doctors, social workers and nutritionists thanks to Mission Mexico's support. He shows photographs of a young woman, the oldest of nine, now studying to be an accountant. Another picture shows a young man in a wheelchair. Thanks to Mission Mexico's support, he finished high school and is studying psychology. These are some of the dozens of students Mission Mexico has helped with bursaries. While university tuition is affordable, the country’s most vulnerable students cannot attend without financial help.
Mission Mexico excels in how it values human dignity, adds MacDonald, who helps villagers access the basic health and dental care Canadians takes for granted. He knows a child who’s been fitted with a prosthetic eye after losing that eye to parasitic disease. Another, once housebound by blindness, lives a transformed life thanks to cataract surgery.
MacDonald, 71, also lends a hand with other community projects. He helps families access social supports, including housing. He collects, sorts and delivers donations of clothing and teaches wealthier Mexicans about their country’s most vulnerable people by taking them to remote villages.
“God is good, all the time and I get to see what Mission Mexico accomplishes every day,” says MacDonald. He is grateful for the continued support of the Calgary Catholic Diocese, led by Bishop William McGrattan. “I want people to know that their help makes a difference down here. This kind of work is very focused on lifting people out of poverty. The more money we raise, the more people we help.”
Written by Joy Gregory for Faithfully. Joy Gregory is a writer, cradle Catholic, and long-time parishioner of St. Peter’s, Calgary, where she’s been active in preschool catechism programs, RCIA, and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
Photos courtesy of Mission Mexico. All rights reserved.
Turning to our Mother
On 12 December, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Church in Canada celebrates the National Day of Prayer in Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples. This initiative of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has been coordinated since 2002 by the Canadian Catholic Indigenous Council (formerly the Canadian Catholic Aboriginal Council). This year, the reflection by the Council is inspired by Pope Francis’s words of healing and reconciliation spoken during his “penitential pilgrimage” to Canada.
This year, we have been blessed to have had a delegation of Indigenous people visit Pope Francis in Rome in order to receive his apology on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church, and again to welcome the Holy Father to this land to hear his words of sorrow as he embarked on his, self described, “Pilgrimage of Penance”. Let us take this opportunity to build on the reflections offered by Pope Francis.
The Holy Father comments that he is struck by the Indigenous delegations’ wise and farsighted term “traditional wisdom” as it applies to the need to consider the impact of deliberations as far into the future as the seventh generation. Pope Francis’ understanding of the family bond over generations, and its importance in moving forward with reconciliation is instructive and it opens the door for all Catholics to learn about and apply understandings of the Indigenous world view towards reconciliation.
In Rome, Pope Francis remarked, “The ties that connect the elderly and the young are essential. They must be protected lest we lose our historical memory and very identity”. At the Mass in Edmonton, celebrating the feast day of Saints Anne and Joachim, the Holy Father recognized the gift that is family and how, “No one comes into this life detached from others. The love that awaited us and welcomed us into this world are part of a unique history that preceded us… we did not choose that history; we received it as a gift.” This is consistent with the insight from an Elder from Cold Lake, Alberta who responded to a question about why Indigenous parents were indulgent with their children, saying, “We must not injure the child’s spirit”. Children’s experiences of abuse at the hands of those who would shape their lives are contrary to this principle and that, in Indigenous settings, family ties are to be nurtured, protected, and cherished as the gift they are.
As Catholics, we share this value of strengthening nuclear and extended family ties, but we often do not see the many ways that colonization continues to impact the very thing we cherish. Indigenous voices have expressed that “residential school” continues in other forms. Child welfare authorities remove Indigenous children from nuclear and extended family settings. Canada’s justice system also removes parents from children which seriously affects opportunities for continuity of relationships, identity formation and indeed wholesome human development. As Catholics concerned about reconciliation, can we advocate for changes to these contributors to continued intergenerational trauma?
Joy, hope, and love
I was born in 1922 and raised in Shaunavon, Saskatchewan. I attended High School in Swift Current where I met the Sisters of Charity of St. Louis. Soon after I felt called by God to begin my life with the Sisters in Bienville, Quebec.
After the time of formation and profession of vows (1942), I returned to Western Canada teaching In Saskatchewan and Alberta until 1958. Then I moved to Medicine Hat to the Novitiate Formation community as Director until 1964. I was further blessed with the opportunity for religious studies in Rome, and then further studies in psychology and counselling in Calgary, Ottawa, and New York. My journey then was focused on spiritual direction, youth counseling (University of Calgary) and helping those who suffered from addiction and their families through recovery, counselling with AADAC, the 12 Step individual and group counselling. I also served those attending serenity retreats, and those in personal growth groups and retreats for women.
Submitted by Sr. Helen for Faithfully.
I have been abundantly blessed, as I was born and raised in Ponteix, Saskatchewan in a faith-filled family where love, prayer and acceptance were the dominant forces molding me and guiding me in my early life.
In my teen years I was privileged to be asked to be responsible for looking after the cleanliness of the sanctuary in our parish church. Years later when I was finishing my high school there were moments when I felt God's love and presence in my life and a deep desire to follow Him. So it was. I joined the congregation of sisters who taught me at St. Theresa Academy in Medicine Hat, the Sisters of Charity of St. Louis. For my formation and I went to Bienville, Quebec and in 1947 I made my profession of vows. I then returned to western Canada for my initial training to become a teacher, and in later years earned a B. Ed and B.A in Alberta.
In my 30 years as a teacher, mostly in Saskatchewan, I was blessed to work with many wonderful teachers and many eager students.
After a wonderful sabbatical in Ottawa, I had the privilege of taking biblical sessions in Jerusalem and time to visit the Holy Land. Shortly after this wonderful experience I was ready to accept the position as parish leader in parishes in the Archdiocese of Regina, Saskatchewan, as well as working with Father Sullivan in the task of training lay people to lead the parishes for Sunday liturgy in the absence of a pastor.
In 2011 I retired in Medicine Hat. I was a member of St. Patrick's Parish as well as had the time and privilege of visiting my relatives and friends.
Presently I am retired and enjoying life in Swan Evergreen Village Senior Home in Calgary with other Sisters from my community.
Submitted by Sr. Clemence Liboiron for Faithfully.
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)
A special visit from the seminarians
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.
Christmas in Elizabeth House
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The art of accompaniment
“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.
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers