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
My most enduring memories of youth have to do with the place of faith and prayer in my family. I didn’t fully appreciate the gift that was given to me then. Now I do. And in all honesty, neither did I fully grasp, in my first years as a husband and dad, the beautiful gift, the responsibility, and the opportunities family prayer was. I still remember the prominent weekly ritual of our family getting ready for Sunday mass and the privileged role of Mary in our Polish home. I fondly recall the persevering prayer life of my mother, the power prayer had for my dad when dealing with cancer, the image of my grandfather in prayer, so often with a rosary in hand and ever so contemplative.
A perfect family? Far from it. There were moments of harmony, but also conflict. Unity and cohesion, but also misunderstanding, hurt and pain. There was health, but also sickness and death. Rejoicing with successes, crying with betrayal, and conflict followed by repentance, conversion and forgiveness. How did we ever get through it all? Now, after all those years, I look back and see that it was all grace.
In Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis writes: “A positive experience of family communion is a true path to daily sanctification and mystical growth, a means for deeper union with God” (No. 316). He goes on to say, “If a family is centred on Christ, he will unify and illumine its entire life. Moments of pain and difficulty will be experienced in union with the Lord’s cross, and his closeness will make it possible to surmount them” (No. 317). Given the conviction of the Holy Father and Tradition of the Church on the power of prayer in the life of individuals and families, you may also find relief knowing that there is scientific support to Fr. Patrick Peyton’s maxim, “The family that prays together, stays together.”
One study, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, explored this adage and identified 7 themes.
There is value in creating a culture of family prayer. To do this means prioritizing time for prayer and intentionally setting aside distractions. Jesus said, “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them (Matthew 18:20). In essence, that is what prayer is all about. Responding to His initiative, and inviting Jesus, who loves me and my family in an intimate and unrepeatable way, into our homes and hearts.
By: Anthony Banka, Family & Youth Coordinator
Note: Chelladurai, J.M., Dollahite, D.C., and Marks, L.D. (2018). The family that prays together: Relational processes associated with regular family prayer. Journal of Family Psychology, 32(7), 849-859.
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
Throughout our Catholic tradition, the book of sacred Scripture has been the honored symbol of God’s living word present among us. Processions, bowing, candles, and incense express our church’s reverence for the inspired word as it is enthroned, opened, and proclaimed in Catholic worship. This prayer service brings the ancient practice of Bible enthronement to Catholic homes, so that it may be a continual reminder to seek and live God’s word each day.
“I would like so much for all Christians to be able to comprehend ‘the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ, through diligent reading of the Word of God, for the sacred text is nourishment of the soul and the pure and perennial source of spiritual life for all of us.” – POPE FRANCIS
Prayer to enthrone the bible in your home - Download Leaflet here
Reverently place the open Bible on a mantle, table, shelf, or bookstand. You may adorn the space with a candle, crucifix, icon, or flowers. It will serve as a spot for regular Bible reading and prayer. As you pray this enthronement service together, different family members may volunteer for different reader parts.
We begin in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. We gather together to enthrone the Holy Bible, the sacred book of our church. Since ancient times, the open book of Scripture has been enthroned at church councils and in cathedrals and parish churches. Since every Catholic home is a “domestic church,” we continue this tradition in the place of our ordinary lives, asking that this enthroned Bible remind us that God teaches, encourages, and challenges us through its open pages.
Let us pray: Ever-living God, send your Holy Spirit so that this Bible may be for us a source of strength, comfort, inspiration, and guidance. Give us a deeper love for sacred Scripture, a desire to read and reflect upon it, and a longing to follow more faithfully the way of Jesus.
Let us listen to Jesus as he offers us truth and freedom through his Word. A Reading from the Gospel according to John:
Jesus then said to those who believed in him, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31–32)
Pause for a moment of silent reflection.
Reader: Let us all respond: “O God, teach us your word.”
R/: O God, teach us your word.
Let us pray: Come Holy Spirit, open our eyes, our ears, our minds, and our hearts to the living word of Scripture. May it always be the center of our home and our lives. As you have inspired that word with power and truth, now give us confidence to read the Bible in ways that form us into disciples. Fill our hearts and kindle in them the fire of your love, so that you may renew the face of the earth.
Let us pray together as Jesus taught us.
R./ Our Father, who art in heaven …
Reader: Let us offer one another a sign of Christ’s peace.
(This enthronement service may be easily adapted to a classroom, community room, or whatever space you wish to dedicate to the sacred Scriptures.)
A place for listening and prayer
Now that the Bible is enthroned in your home, this spot is a place to come regularly to read the Bible, individually and as a family. Choose a book of the Bible to read over a period of time, the Sunday Mass readings, or a Bible study book. Then follow the five stages of the ancient practice of Lectio Divina to guide you.
Read the verses aloud, slowly and carefully, realizing that God is speaking through the sacred text. Imagine the scene, notice the feelings evoked by the text, and consider the type of writing used by the author. If done in a group, members share with the others what they have discovered in the text.
Considering what particular phrases or images have caught your attention, ask yourself what the text is saying personally to you. What insight, comfort, or challenge is God offering you? If in a group, feel free to share your thoughts with the others.
Respond to God who has spoken to you in the text. In words of thanks, praise, repentance, or petition, speak to God from the heart. In a group, this could be prayed aloud or in silence.
Simply rest in God’s presence. Trust God to work within you and form you in the divine image. Stay in silence and savor the Holy Spirit.
Determine how you can turn your prayerful reflection into practical experience. Let the power of God’s word have an effect in your life, making you a more committed disciple of Jesus.
Text & Prayer from Catholic Initiatives
Written by Steven J. Binz
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 2020 the Sunday of the Word of God falls on January 26.
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.
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.
Close to the celebration of Christmas, after the Nativity scene has been set up, gather around to bless and praise God for sending his Son, Jesus. Here is a blessing prayer you can use at home with your family:
Sing a Christmas hymn or carol.
Leader: Glory to God in the highest.
(R/.) And peace to God’s people on earth.
Leader: Let us listen to these words of Scripture.
A reader proclaims one of these readings from Holy Scripture:
Leader: Let us praise our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world, who was born for our salvation. Our response to each intention is “Glory to God in the highest.”
(R/.) Glory to God in the highest.
Leader: Eternal Word, you have scattered the darkness of sin and death. (R/.)
Word made flesh, you have made us children of God most high. (R/.)
Incarnate Son, you have united heaven and earth. (R/.)
Lord Jesus, you are the revelation of God’s love. (R/.)
Eternal Son, you are the light of the nations. (R/.)
Emmanuel, you are fullness of God’s glory. (R/.)
Son of God, you were born of Mary with Joseph as your protector. (R/.)
Bread of life, you were laid in a humble manger. (R/.)
Son of David, the shepherds came to worship you. (R/.)
Light of the world, the Magi brought you gifts. (R/.)
Prayer of Praise
Leader: Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation:
you have sent your Son
as the promised Saviour of the world
so that he might share with us your divine life.
Bless us as we prepare this crib,
and let it be a reminder of the Lord Jesus,
who was born of the Virgin Mary in the City of David.
Grant that we may always serve you in faith
as did the angels,
praise you for your saving deeds
as did the shepherds,
and surround you with the warmth of our love,
as did the animals of the stable.
Glory and praise to you, eternal God,
through Jesus Christ our Saviour,
who lives with you and the Holy Spirit,
for ever and ever.
Conclude by singing a Christmas hymn or carol.
From Blessings and Prayers for Home and Family.
Ottawa: Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2004.
Faithful Catholics take great comfort in reaching out, through prayer, to the communion of saints, triumphant and penitent. Many Catholics even keep a kind of on-call list of favourite saints based on namesakes, vocations and intentions. We invoke Mary for issues related to motherhood, we plead Peregrine’s assistance for loved ones with cancer, we call out to St. Anthony of Padua for all things lost, from keys to causes.
Fr. Myles Gaffney wants to add Saint Kateri Tekakwitha to the list of saints Canadians call on when they seek God’s help. The current vicar of Indigenous Affairs, Fr. Gaffney now serves the Calgary Diocese as the pastor of St. Michael’s parish in Pincher Creek.
There, he spends much of any free time researching and writing about Saint Kateri. While her indigenous heritage makes Kateri a somewhat obvious choice as a protectress of Canada, the environment and ecology, Fr. Gaffney says contemporary Catholics have much to learn from this saint’s experience of advanced prayer. “That’s something a lot of people don’t know about her, but it should really strike a chord in today’s world. Kateri could be the greatest contemplative that we know about in North America.”
Fr. Gaffney learned about Kateri when writing his first book, Signposts of our Faith: Canadian Witnesses to Vocation and Mission. That book was published in 2010 and by the time Fr. Gaffney took a 2016 sabbatical to study her life further, the priest was recognized as a Kateri scholar. During his sabbatical, the priest visited Kateri shrines in upstate New York and studied almost 400 pages of biographies and letters, including reports from first-hand witnesses of her life and miracles.
That research informs a presentation the priest has given at international Kateri Conferences, seminaries in the United States and Canada. He’s also presented to smaller groups of indigenous peoples and Catholics who want to learn more about the first Native North American Saint. Fr. Gaffney says the presentation is a work-in-progress that may eventually be published in book form.
Written by Joy Gregory
"To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord." (Lk. 2:11)
You are invited to spend the Christmas season with Our Lord Jesus Christ with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary. Check out the Mass times for the Christmas Season in parishes throughout the Diocese of Calgary. Click here.
Tonight, as I was driving by a parking lot in the bleak and snowy weather, feeling downcast and discouraged by difficulties from recent weeks, I saw a guy dumpster-diving in a clothing donations bin in the dark. Pulling over to ask if there was anything I can do to help, I was shocked to see a guy probably in his 30's, not older than me.
He said what he needed most was a warm pair of gloves to make it through the cold night, as his was full of holes. Since all the stores were closed, I offered him mine, though they were rather worn. He hesitated, but I insisted that he tried them on – they fit. The look on his face was one of genuine happiness and gratitude, over just my old worn pair of gloves. My heart ached. We made a run to Tim’s to get some food, and I let him know about the Feed The Hungry program every Sunday at St. Mary’s. He shared with me that he went to a Catholic school growing up, so I asked him if there was anything I can help pray for. Looking away, he stood silent for what seemed like a minute, neither speaking or moving. Then, with tears in his eyes, he asked me to pray for his two kids whom he hasn’t seen in a long time. I promised I would pray for him, and in your charity, I ask that you please pray for Mike and his kids too. He was so grateful, but to me he was the real blessing tonight, as he snapped me out of focusing on myself and my own problems. God bless Mike, and may he receive all the graces and help needed to be reunited with his kids. #iamblessed
Shared by Dr. Thomas Fung, parishioner of Holy Spirit Parish in Calgary, Vice President of Calgary Catholic Medical Association. Photo credit: Dr. Thomas Fung
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers