Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Two former popes: two new saints and spiritual guides of the Church

Saints John Paul II and John XXIII as of April 27, 2014
On April 27, Divine Mercy Sunday, a celebration instituted by John Paul II, Pope Francis will canonize two former popes: Saint John Paul II and Saint John XXIII. The canonization of these two faithful men of the Church is also a great celebtation for everyone believer and non-believer alike. These two news saints will continue to spiritually enrich the Church with the example they gave the world in living the faith. They are a souce of hope and love for all of us.

John XXIII is remembered as a kind and humble man and the pope who called in 1959 for an ecumenical council, now known as Vatican II, of the Universal Church. In his book Journal of a Soul he records how to live a Christian life: devote daily an hour to deepening one's spiritual life. This for him included prayer, reading a chapter from The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis, some other spiritual reading and a daily examination of conscience to overcome failings with virtues. In addition, there's should be weekly confession, a monthly evaluation by a good friend as to the success of one's spiritual life and a yearly retreat. The encyclical Ad Petri Cathedram best connects him to John Paul II. The encyclical's theme is to defend objective truth and morality against what Pope Benedict XVI called today's "dictatorship of relativism."

In 1978, John Paul II became the first Polish pope to be elected. He suffered great hardships during World War II. He was in the third grade when he lost his mother. Just four years later his younger brother died and shortly after that his father away leaving him an orphan. However, even as a young man he knew that his true path was a vocation to the priesthood. As pope, he made it his mission to evangelize with the total belief that "the truth will make you free." John Paul II re-newed the Church with his numerous encyclicals, homilies and other publications including the Theology of the Body. He started the World Youth Day recognizing that the young are the future of the Church. He wasn't afraid to confront communism, to promote the Gospel of Life and to travel to the ends of the world to announce the Good News. Among the many apostolic exhortations and encyclicals, John Paul II wrote Redemptor Hominis, Veritatis Splendor, Evangelium Vitae and Fides and Ratio. We highly recommend reading his book Love and Responsibilty as a way of celebrating his canonization. 

Here’s some additional biographical information from the Diocese of Sacramento about these two great priests, popes an servants of the Church in the name of Christ.
John Paul II
Karol Józef Wojtyła was born on May 18, 1920, in Wadowice, Poland. On October 16, 1978, he became John Paul II, the first Polish pope and the first non-Italian pope since 1522. By the time of his death on April 2, 2005, he was one of the longest-serving popes in history.
One of the most influential leaders of the 20th century, John Paul II was instrumental in bringing an end to Communist rule both in Poland and the whole of Europe. His pontificate was also marked by tremendous strides in ecumenism and interreligious dialogue, as he was the first pope to visit both a mosque and a synagogue.
At his funeral in 2005, the faithful filled St. Peter’s Square with banners and shouts of “Santo subito,” or “Sainthood now.” In response, Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI waived the traditional five-year waiting period for the canonization process to begin.
John Paul II was proclaimed “Venerable” on Dec. 19, 2009. He was beatified on May 1, 2011, on the feast of Divine Mercy. His beatification is the fastest on record, coming a little more than six years after his death and surpassing Mother Teresa’s record beatification in 2003 by a few days.
The required second miracle for canonization was certified as authentic by Pope Francis on July 5, 2013. According to a report from Catholic World News, the second miracle attributed to John Paul II involved a Costa Rican woman, who was cured of a cerebral aneurysm on May 1, 2011, the date of the beatification of John Paul II.
John XXIII
Born the son of Italian sharecroppers and one of 13 children, Angelo Guiseppe Roncalli (Nov. 25, 1881-June 3, 1963) was ordained a priest in 1904 and went on to serve in various posts, such as papal nuncio, in several countries. He was elected pope on Oct. 28, 1958, at the age of 77. Because of his age, many expected him to be a “stop gap” pope, but things did not turn out that way.
The papacy got interesting right away with the man who would become affectionately known as “Good Pope John.” The fact that he chose the name John was significant because he was the first to do so in more than 500 years. Other popes had avoided the name because of the antipope John XXIII (1410-1415).
His decision on Dec. 25, 1958, to visit children infected with polio at a hospital in Rome made him the first pope to make pastoral visits in the Diocese of Rome since 1870. He followed this visit with a trip to a Roman prison the very next day. He also had a habit of sneaking out of the Vatican late at night in order to walk the streets of Rome. This behavior earned him the name “Johnny Walker.”
Administratively, he convoked a Roman Synod and established the Commission for the Revision of the Code of Canon Law. However, the calling of the Second Vatican Council was by far the greatest surprise of his papacy.
John XXIII made the call for the ecumenical council less than three months after his election, on Jan. 25, 1959. He had no detailed plan other than a very general idea of aggiornamento and a desire to seek Christian unity. He formally summoned the council on Dec. 25, 1961.
He was beatified on September 3, 2000. Interestingly, Pope Francis then waived the requirement for a second miracle on July 5, 2013, to clear the way for John XXIII’s canonization. According to Catholic News Agency, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi explained that the move “is something that is in the power of the pope; it’s not something particularly special ... For example, martyrs are beatified without any miracle, which means that miracles, because of tradition and theology, are commonly requested, but it’s not an absolute necessity.”
The Path to Sainthood
The current procedure for causes of beatification and canonization can be found in the apostolic constitution Divinus Perfectionis Magister, promulgated by Pope John Paul II in 1983. The various stages leading to canonization are as follows:
Servant of God – The process can begin after at least five years have passed since the death of the candidate. It involves a diocesan-level investigation into the candidate’s exercise of Christian virtues considered heroic. At this point, the candidate can be called Servant of God.
Venerable – The investigation is passed on to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome. After a summary report obtains the necessary votes of nine reviewing theologians, the cause is passed on for examination by cardinals and bishops of the congregation. A recommendation then is made to the pope that he should issue a proclamation of the candidate’s heroic virtue. From the point of the pope’s proclamation, the candidate is referred to by the title of Venerable.
Blessed (Martyrs) – In the case of a martyr, the prefect of the Congregation presents the results of the investigation to the Holy Father, who gives his approval and authorizes the Congregation to draft the relative decree of beatification. The public reading and promulgation of the decree of beatification grants the candidate the title of Blessed.
Blessed (Confessors) – If the candidate was not a martyr but rather a confessor who died peacefully after a life of heroic virtue, a miracle attributable to the intercession of the candidate after his or her death is necessary. If the miracle is verified, a second decree is promulgated, with the decree on heroic virtue, which grants the candidate the title of Blessed.
Saint – In order for the Blessed to be canonized and acquire the title of saint, another miracle is required and must have occurred after his or her beatification.
Saints John Paul II and John XXIII, pray for us! Pray that Canada will be a culture where the love God and the protection of life will flourish once more.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Canada and the International Day of the Unborn Child

There are a number of countries around the world that celebrate on March 25th, the International Day of the Unborn Child. It's to acknowledge the inherent human dignity of the unborn child. Pro-life advocates marked the day with marches, liturgies, demonstrations, and events to demonstrate support for laws and policies that protect the unborn child from abortion and offer care and support for his or her mother. 
Pope John Paul II first initiated the day of remembrance, which coincides with Feast of the Annunciation, celebrating the moment when the angel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary that she would be the mother of Jesus Christ, and now all faiths participate. El Salvador was the first country to officially recognize a “Day of the Right to Be Born” in 1993 while the first “Day of the Unborn” was officially recognized in Argentina in 1999. In 2003, the first Provida International Congress in Madrid, with representation from over 20 countries in Europe and the Americas, institutionalized March 25th as the International Day of Life. 
The International Day of the Unborn Child has grown rapidly, with celebrations held throughout the month of March and official government recognition growing. Celebrations in Chile were given an official recognition as legislation marking the day was passed last fall. White roses were handed out to pregnant women in Santiagoas a symbol of the unborn child’s purity and to honor pregnant women while raising awareness about the importance of caring for and protecting expectant mothers. The foundation Chile Unido, which provides assistance to pregnant women from pregnancy to the baby’s first year, helped to orchestrate the initiative. 
Romania held its largest March for Life to date to in celebration of new life, with events in 40 cities. The theme of the March was “Adoption, the noble choice”. The goal of the March according to a press release is “to set these thoughts in the Romanians’ hearts. If we succeed in sending a message to society that our country needs an adoption culture, this will lead the nation to a culture of life.” 
The events were organized and coordinated largely by the pro-life student organization Studenti pentru Viata, with strong support from the Romanian Orthodox Church. “The Pro Life Week” also included many side events, such as pro-life movie screenings, exhibitions, conferences and support groups for adoptive parents. Additionally, the Romanian government organized a forum on adoption with officials from the Romanian Office for Adoptions, MPs and experts in adoption issues. Commemorations of the day included events in Australia, Austria, Argentina, Canada, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Israel, Italy, Nicaragua, Poland, Peru, Paraguay, the Philippines, Slovakia, Spain, Uruguay, the United States, and the United Kingdom.
The article above comes from the Parliamentary Network for Critical Issues, PNCI, website. This is an organization "that works to identify, unite, and strategize with pro-life groups, lawmakers, and religious leaders to advance respect for life in law and policy." Canadians too should pressure members of parliament to declare a "Day for the Unborn Child" to be celebrated on March 25th. Let's start with a single day and we hope and pray that one day Canada will be for life everyday. We need to do this because our current members of parliament have so far refused to even discuss the issue of the definition of human life and when it begins. We saw this last year with the government's rejection of Motion 312.

Canadians must exercise their freedom to celebrate the right to be born. Without that right, no other human rights are possible. Canada when it comes to the respect for life should use El Salvador and the other pro-life countries as examples to follow. We must choose life for the sake of future generations of Canadians that depend on this. Write, email, call, fax or do whatever you can to bring this important issue to the attention of your federal representative (MP) and the Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The culture of death has put blinders on us living in North America. The fact that there are countries with legislation that embraces the culture of life is encouraging. It's also proof that dispels the lies we are constantly told about the need for abortion in order to have good and safe maternal heath care. It's time for Canada to officially recognize the International Day of the Unborn Child. Every human life no matter how small deserves to be protected. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easter Day: the Resurrection of the Lord


Christ appears to the three Marys by Laurent de La Hyre
This is the homliy that Pope Francis gave on March 30, 2013 for the Easter Vigil Mass at the Vatican Basilica. His thoughts are worth remembering this Easter Day 2014: 
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. In the Gospel of this radiant night of the Easter Vigil, we first meet the women who go the tomb of Jesus with spices to anoint his body (cf. Lk 24:1-3). They go to perform an act of compassion, a traditional act of affection and love for a dear departed person, just as we would. They had followed Jesus, they had listened to his words, they had felt understood by him in their dignity and they had accompanied him to the very end, to Calvary and to the moment when he was taken down from the cross. We can imagine their feelings as they make their way to the tomb: a certain sadness, sorrow that Jesus had left them, he had died, his life had come to an end. Life would now go on as before. Yet the women continued to feel love, the love for Jesus which now led them to his tomb. But at this point, something completely new and unexpected happens, something which upsets their hearts and their plans, something which will upset their whole life: they see the stone removed from before the tomb, they draw near and they do not find the Lord’s body. It is an event which leaves them perplexed, hesitant, full of questions: “What happened?”, “What is the meaning of all this?” (cf. Lk 24:4). Doesn’t the same thing also happen to us when something completely new occurs in our everyday life? We stop short, we don’t understand, we don’t know what to do. Newness often makes us fearful, including the newness which God brings us, the newness which God asks of us. We are like the Apostles in the Gospel: often we would prefer to hold on to our own security, to stand in front of a tomb, to think about someone who has died, someone who ultimately lives on only as a memory, like the great historical figures from the past. We are afraid of God’s surprises. Dear brothers and sisters, we are afraid of God’s surprises! He always surprises us! The Lord is like that.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us not be closed to the newness that God wants to bring into our lives! Are we often weary, disheartened and sad? Do we feel weighed down by our sins? Do we think that we won’t be able to cope? Let us not close our hearts, let us not lose confidence, let us never give up: there are no situations which God cannot change, there is no sin which he cannot forgive if only we open ourselves to him.
2. But let us return to the Gospel, to the women, and take one step further. They find the tomb empty, the body of Jesus is not there, something new has happened, but all this still doesn’t tell them anything certain: it raises questions; it leaves them confused, without offering an answer. And suddenly there are two men in dazzling clothes who say: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; but has risen” (Lk 24:5-6). What was a simple act, done surely out of love – going to the tomb – has now turned into an event, a truly life-changing event. Nothing remains as it was before, not only in the lives of those women, but also in our own lives and in the history of mankind. Jesus is not dead, he has risen, he is alive! He does not simply return to life; rather, he is life itself, because he is the Son of God, the living God (cf. Num 14:21-28; Deut 5:26; Josh 3:10). Jesus no longer belongs to the past, but lives in the present and is projected towards the future; Jesus is the everlasting “today” of God. This is how the newness of God appears to the women, the disciples and all of us: as victory over sin, evil and death, over everything that crushes life and makes it seem less human. And this is a message meant for me and for you dear sister, for you dear brother. How often does Love have to tell us: Why do you look for the living among the dead? Our daily problems and worries can wrap us up in ourselves, in sadness and bitterness... and that is where death is. That is not the place to look for the One who is alive! Let the risen Jesus enter your life, welcome him as a friend, with trust: he is life! If up till now you have kept him at a distance, step forward. He will receive you with open arms. If you have been indifferent, take a risk: you won’t be disappointed. If following him seems difficult, don’t be afraid, trust him, be confident that he is close to you, he is with you and he will give you the peace you are looking for and the strength to live as he would have you do.
3. There is one last little element that I would like to emphasize in the Gospel for this Easter Vigil. The women encounter the newness of God. Jesus has risen, he is alive! But faced with empty tomb and the two men in brilliant clothes, their first reaction is one of fear: “they were terrified and bowed their faced to the ground”, Saint Luke tells us – they didn’t even have courage to look. But when they hear the message of the Resurrection, they accept it in faith. And the two men in dazzling clothes tell them something of crucial importance: remember. “Remember what he told you when he was still in Galilee… And they remembered his words” (Lk 24:6,8). This is the invitation to remember their encounter with Jesus, to remember his words, his actions, his life; and it is precisely this loving remembrance of their experience with the Master that enables the women to master their fear and to bring the message of the Resurrection to the Apostles and all the others (cf. Lk 24:9). To remember what God has done and continues to do for me, for us, to remember the road we have travelled; this is what opens our hearts to hope for the future. May we learn to remember everything that God has done in our lives.
On this radiant night, let us invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary, who treasured all these events in her heart (cf. Lk 2:19,51) and ask the Lord to give us a share in his Resurrection. May he open us to the newness that transforms, to the beautiful surprises of God. May he make us men and women capable of remembering all that he has done in our own lives and in the history of our world. May he help us to feel his presence as the one who is alive and at work in our midst. And may he teach us each day, dear brothers and sisters, not to look among the dead for the Living One. Amen.
We also share with you a recording of a wonderful and moving adaptation of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." It's beautifully sung by Kelley Mooney from Prince Edward Island. Wishing all our readers a blessed and holy Easter. Alleluia! Allleluia! Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to people of good will.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Meditation for Good Friday

The Small Crucifixion
by Matthias Grunewald
This Good Friday reflection is taken from Monsignor Romano Guardini's book The Lord, published in 1982. We highly recommend the book. Guardini was a well known theologian and author. He was also a mentor to Pope Benedict XVI. Here's his meditation:
Holy Scripture opens with the words, “In the beginning God created heaven, and earth.” And the catechism adds: Out of nothing he created them. This means that ‘before’ (one of those false words necessary for human logic, but of course not to be taken literally) God conceived and willed creation, nothing existed—neither matter nor energy nor images nor motives; not even the mysterious yearning for existence, but actually nothing!
God existed, and that was enough. “Beside” God nothing was, is necessary, for he is the “One and All.” Even all that is “in addition” to God comes from him: matter, energy, form, purpose, order, things, events, plants, animals, humans, angels – everything that is. Man can work with the stuff of reality or even recombine images in the unreal realms of fantasy. But he can never create from nothing, can add no single new thing (real or imagined) to those God has fashioned. For man nothingness is a blank wall. Only God, who can create from it, making things and placing them in reality, has genuine contact with it. For man nothingness is only the severance from things.
Thus God created man, who had no coherence, no life save in his Creator. Then man sinned; he attempted to free himself from this fundamental truth of his existence; attempted to be sufficient unto himself. And he fell away from God – in the terrible, literal sense of the word. He fell from genuine being towards nothingness – and not back to the positive, creative pure nothingness from which God had lifted him, but towards the negative nothingness of sin, destruction, death, senselessness and the abyss. Admittedly, he never quite touches bottom, for then he would cease to exist, and he who has not created himself is incapable of cancelling his existence.
God’s mysterious grace could not leave man in such forlornness; it desired to help him home. It is not for us to discuss how he might have accomplished this. Our task is to hold to the text that accounts how it actually was done: in a manner of such sacred magnanimity and power, that once revealed to us, it is impossible to conceive of  any other: in the manner of love.
God followed man (see the parables of the lost sheep and the missing groat in Luke 15) into the no man’s land which sin had ripped open. God not only glanced down at him and summoned him lovingly to return, he personally entered into that vacuous dark to fetch him, as St. John so powerfully expresses it in his opening Gospel. Thus in the midst of human history stood one who was both human and God. Pure as God; but bowed with responsibility as man.
He drank the dregs of that responsibility – down to the bottom of the chalice. Mere man cannot do this. He is so much smaller than his sin against God, that he can neither contain it nor cope with it. He can commit it, but he is incapable of fully realizing what he has done. He  cannot measure his act; cannot receive it into his life and suffer it through to the end. Though he has committed it, he is incapable of expiating it. It confuses him, troubles him, leaves him desperate but helpless.
God alone can “handle” sin. Only he sees through it, weighs it, judges it with a judgment that condemns the sin but loves the sinner. A man attempting the same would break. This then the love, reestablisher of justice and willer of man’s rescue known as “grace.” Through the Incarnation a being came into existence who though human in form, realized God’s own attitude toward sin. In the heart and spirit and body of a man, God straightened his accounts with sin. That process was contained in the life and death of Jesus Christ.
The plunge from God towards the void which man in his revolt had begun (chute in which the creature can only despair or break) Christ undertook in love. Knowingly, voluntarily, he experienced it with all the sensitiveness of his divinely human heart. The greater the victim, the more terrible the blow that fells him. No one ever died as Jesus died, who was life itself. No one was ever punished for sin as he was, the Sinless One. No one ever experienced the plunge down the vacuum of evil as did God’s Son – even to the excruciating agony behind the words: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). Jesus was really destroyed. Cut off in the flower of his age; his work stifled just when it should have taken root; his friends scattered, his honor broken. He no longer had anything, was anything: “a worm and not a man.”
In inconceivable pain “he descended into hell,” realm in which evil reigns, and not only as the victorious breaker of its chains. This came later; first he had to touch the nadir of a personally experienced agony such as no man has ever dreamed. There the endlessly Beloved One of the eternal Father brushed the bottom of the pit. He penetrated to the absolute nothingness from which the “re-creation” of those already created (but falling from the source of true life toward that nothingness) was to emerge: the new heaven and new earth.
We will end this post with the hymn Stabat Mater dolorosa. It's sung at the stations of the cross during Lenten services. Here's part of the English translation from Latin:
Here he hung, the dying Lord. 
At the Cross her station keeping
Stood the mournful Mother weeping, 
For her soul of joy bereaved,
Bowed with anguish, deeply grieved, 
Felt the sharp and piercing sword.

Meditation for Holy Thursday

The Last Supper by Giovanni Pietro Rizzoli
To remember the evening of the Lord's Supper, Holy Thursday, we share with 
you this meditation written by St. Thomas Aquinas, a Domenican priest and great doctor of the Church. He also wrote the hymn Pange Lingua which which is sung as 
the Blessed Sacrament is taken in procession in the church to a place of repose. 
Here's the meditation followed by a recording of the hymn:
It was most fitting that the Sacrament of the Body of the Lord should have been instituted at the Last Supper. Because of what the Sacrament contains.  For that which is contained in it is Christ Himself.  When Christ in His natural appearance was about to depart from His disciples, He left Himself to them in a sacramental appearance, just as in the absence of the emperor there is exhibited the emperor's image. When Saint Eusebius says, 'Since the Body He had assumed was about to be taken away from their bodily sight, and was about to be carried to the stars, it was necessary that, on the day of His last Supper, He should consecrate for us the Sacrament of His Body and Blood, so that what, as a price, was offered once should, through a mystery, be worshiped unceasingly.
Because without faith in the Passion there can never be salvation. Therefore it is necessary that there should be, forever, among [people] something that would represent the Lord's Passion and the chief of such representative things in the Old Testament was the Paschal Lamb. To this there succeeded in the New Testament the Sacrament of the Eucharist, which is commemorative of the past Passion of the Lord as the Paschal lamb was a foreshadowing of the Passion to come.
And therefore was it most fitting that, on the very eve of the Passion, the old sacrament of the Paschal Lamb having been celebrated, Our Lord should institute the new Sacrament.
Because the last words of departing friends remain longest in the memory our love being at such moments most tenderly alert, nothing can be greater in the realm of sacrifice than that of the Body and Blood of Christ, no offering can be more effective. And hence, in order that the Sacrament might be held in all the more veneration, it was in His last leave-taking of the Apostles that our Lord instituted it.
Hence Saint Augustine says, 'Our Savior, to bring before our minds with all His power the heights and the depths of this Sacrament, willed, ere He left the disciples to go forth to His passion, to fix it in their hearts and their memories as His last act.'

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Palm Sunday: Christ's eternal gift of love and redemptiom

Fresco, Resurrection of Christ and the Women at the Tomb, Fran Angelico 1440
We would like to share two brief reflections as the liturgy celebrates Passion Palm/Sunday and we enter Holy Week. One is written by Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, now known as Father Simeon. He's a Cistercian monk of St. Joseph’s Abbey, Spencer, MA. We have taken the medidation from the Magnificat magazine for Holy Week 2014:
Every Palm Sunday we enter into the holiest week of the Church’s liturgical year, the time when we are invited to contemplate and partake in what we believe to be the most hidden and awe-inspiring mysteries possible. And what is at the center of these fathomless mysteries? A passion, the Passion of the incarnate God. And even though we call that day “Palm Sunday” because of the traditional procession, its proper name is actually “Passion Sunday,” just as Holy Week is another name for the Week of the Passion.
We habitually say that we will “celebrate the Lord’s Passion,” or “read the Lord’s Passion according to Matthew,” or that “the Lord is now entering into his Passion.” But do we ever reflect sufficiently on this apparent coincidence, that the climax of our redemption through Christ’s suffering should bear the same name as that “passion of love” which is one of the ways in which we could translate the term eros? It is to be expected that many are puzzled as to why exactly it is that suffering should bring about redemption. Our understanding of this mysterious correspondence can be helped along, I think, if we expand the meaning of suffering from simply “undergoing pain” to include “the willing activation of all the passions of the soul,” intended to put love in the place of the beloved’s refusal to love. Christ redeems us because he passionately embraces our rejection of him with a love unto death, and he will not let go of us.
The other reflection is by Pope Francis from his General Audience catechesis given at St. Peter's Square on March 27, 2013: 
Living Holy Week means entering ever more deeply into the logic of God, into the logic of the Cross, which is not primarily that of suffering and death, but rather that of love and of the gift of self which brings life. It means entering into the logic of the Gospel. Following and accompanying Christ, staying with him, demands “coming out of ourselves”, requires us to be outgoing; to come out of ourselves, out of a dreary way of living faith that has become a habit, out of the temptation to withdraw into our own plans which end by shutting out God’s creative action.
Holy Week is a time of grace which the Lord gives us to open the doors of our heart, of our life, of our parishes — what a pity so many parishes are closed! — of the movements, of the associations; and “to come out” in order to meet others, to make ourselves close, to bring them the light and joy of our faith. To come out always! And to do so with God’s love and tenderness, with respect and with patience, knowing that God takes our hands, our feet, our heart, and guides them and makes all our actions fruitful. I hope that we all live these days well, following the Lord courageously, carrying within us a ray of his love for all those we meet. 
We hope that these short meditations can serve to help deepen and strengthen our spiritual lives this Holy Week. Christ's passion, death and resurrection free us from whatever chains us to sin, selfishness, mortality, indifference and darkness. Only one question remains: will we use the gift of freedom to choose to embrace the resurrected Christ by following Him, loving Him, and our neighbour? Let's pray for the grace to say yes to Christ. A blessed and joyous Easter to all our readers and their families.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

More sexual indoctrination: this time from the Canadian Government


The Canadian Guidelines for Sexual Health Education is just another example of how even our federal government is spreading propaganda about human sexuality. If children don't get indoctrinated in schools, Canada's government is making sure its done through their policies and guidelines on sexual health. Here are the two stated goals for sexual health education:
1. to help people achieve positive outcomes (e.g., self-esteem, respect for self and others, non-exploitive sexual relations, rewarding human relationships, informed reproductive choices); and
2. to avoid negative outcomes (e.g., STI/HIV, sexual coercion, unintended pregnancy)
The World Health Organization and the ministries of education in Canada, since education is a provincial responsibility, have endorsed a view of human sexuality devoid of any morality and biology. The view is totally relativistic and non-judgmental. Under the umbrella of secularism, the government feels it can promote homosexuality because it's progressive, neutral and politically correct. But just take a quick look at PEI's parental resource for Children's Sexual Behaviours and one discovers that it's anything but neutral. Deceptive words such as "sexual minorities," "bullying," "tolerance," "equality" and "inclusive" are used many times in an attempt to persuade the reader to accept what isn't true. The federal guidelines push the same view by stating that "diverse needs" must be met in sexual health education. What this means is the recognition of the "under-served minority in Canadian society." In clear English: society must accept homosexuality and all the other LGBTTQ sexual lifestyles. There's no need to vote on this policy because the government has already decided that this is salutary for the "safety" and "health" of the public good. We don't agree. This is how the guide states its view:
With respect to sexual diversity, contemporary research indicates that approximately 2 to 10% of individuals within Canadian society self-identify as non-heterosexual. Due to a complex combination of circumstances (e.g., cultural and religious background; geographic location; peer pressure, etc.) even more individuals may engage in same-sex behaviour, yet not label themselves as a lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-identified, two-spirited or queer (LGBTTQ) person. For example, a survey of 1358 Canadian youth (ages 13-29) found that while 3.5% self-identified as a sexual minority, 7.5% of the heterosexual youth surveyed acknowledged experimenting sexually with members of the same sex. Given these statistics, it is important to remember that in relation to education sexual behaviour is not always synonymous with sexual identity. This realization has important implications for educators and health care professionals when engaging in sexual health education and promotion for diverse populations.
 In relation to the health needs of sexual minorities, it has been suggested that, 'appropriate care for [LGBTTQ youth and adults] does not require special skills or extensive training. Rather, awareness that all youth [and adults] are not heterosexual, sensitivity in conducting routine interviews, and understanding the stressors that affect [LGBTTQ youth and adults] will enable providers to assess and address their needs.' 
Key protective factors that are important for sexual minority youth include: a supportive family; positive peer and social networks; access to nonjudgmental sexual health information; and inclusive community supports and health services. Inclusive and affirming supports are critical and should be provided for all youth and adults, regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity. Providing sexual health education applicable to individual needs is one essential step in ensuring quality care and inclusive service to an often invisible and under-served minority in Canadian society.
The most recent figures put the population of Canada at about 35 million. If 2 to 10% of the individuals identify themselves as "non-heterosexuals," this would mean that there are from 700,000 to 3.5 million who see themselves as something other than heterosexual. However, what is the accurate number given the large percentage range, we should not be trying to change the entire population based on the wants of the minority. Further, who came up with the figures on the number of "non-heterosexuals"  and how accurate are they? This is not good research and it's hardly democratic.

The guidelines also mislead the reader by referring to "sexual rights." Here's how the term is defined: "Sexual rights embrace human rights that are already recognized in national laws, international human rights documents and other consensus statements. They include the right of all persons, free of coercion, discrimination and violence..." No international laws recognize sexual rights. The writers of the document have simply taken the World Health Organization's definition of sexual health and turned into a "right" to support and give credence to what they are saying. However, like abortion there's no such thing as "sexual rights." The claim is absurd. Canadian citizens cannot be given the "right" to a dozen verbally constructed sexual orientations.


Further, Canadians are being asked to reject identifying as male and female, even though biologically that's all there is. Why should we not question the government's assumption that "sexual behaviour is not always synonymous with sexual identity?" The guidelines would have educators teach and promote to students that there's no difference in heterosexual, anal or oral sex. This is not true, especially if we wish to avoid "negative sexual outcomes" listed in the guidelines as in preventing sexually sexually transmitted diseases and HIV which can lead to AIDS. This is not the kind of sexual education that a government should be promoting. It's neither healthy nor moral. It's not even true. A responsible government would issue guidelines to protect its citizens and not expose them to so many dangerous ideas.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Can you imagine the Canadian government producing a pro-life video?

Can you imagine the Canadian or American government of the day producing a pro-life, pro-woman and pro-family video? It's hard to do, isn't it? The culture of death can prevent us from even thinking of this possibility. And yet there are governments in Latin America doing exactly this. One example is the government of Chile. Take a look at this video promoting the culture of life, love and family. It's all paid for by the Chilean government:



The current Canadian government would not even dream of making such a video for its citizens. In fact, most of our elected representatives along and population would have a difficult time watching it. Canada has a lot to learn from a country like Chile when it comes to the issue of life and family. In Chile, abortions are not legal. Over two thirds of the population is pro-life. The country has the lowest maternity mortality rate in Latin America, lower than that of the United States. But what do the pro-abortionists tell us? If a nation doesn't have legal abortions many women die, but this is not true. Chile's pro-life laws make sure that doctors do all they can to save the lives of women and especially when it comes complicated pregnancies. Truly good reproductive heath care has nothing to do with legalized abortion.

Pro-abortion organizations have acknowledged without much publicity that in Ireland where the law, until last year, did not allow abortions, was the best and safest place for a mother to have a baby. This conclusion can be found in the "Report on Maternal Mortality by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, UNFPA and the World bank, 2007." Poland is another example of a pro-life country with similar results. However, we seldom read this information in our daily news. Why? Because the facts don't support our legislated culture of death. We have been told the lie for so long that now it is difficult to accept the fact that countries with no abortions and tight restrictions are the safest places for women to get the best medical care. There's no need to kill the baby to save the mother. The goal should always be to save both lives. A life is a life no matter how small.

This is why recent Canadian governments would not even consider producing a pro-life video. BUT, contrast this anti-life thinking with the spirit of just one generation ago. Then the Canadian Ministry of Health published a pro-life, pro-family and pro-woman book entitled, The Canadian Mother and Child.  This book was given to all parents waiting for their child to be born. Past thinking, as we can see with this example, is not outdated. For too long we have embraced the culture of death.  It's been invading our thoughts and crippling our souls. We have come to believe the myth about the need for abortion. The time has come to defund abortion not defend abortion, and return to a culture of life. It's the only way that our nation can survive.  We cannot survive when we kill our preborn children and euthanize our disabled and elderly.  Without the right to life there are no rights. If we think about it, what value do speeding laws, anti-smoking laws, recycling laws have if we have no right to life itself?

The atmosphere of the nation is poisoned not by air pollution but by the pollution of pushing death for any inconvenient person. Canada has a lot to learn from countries like Chile, Poland and Ireland. What is the difference between their quality of life compared to ours?  They welcome life instead of wanting to snuff it out.  However, let us not lose hope, for despair is a serious sin. We can first of all pray and fast, asking God for the conversion of ourselves and our leaders to a culture of life. We can spread the word of and atmosphere of life and love to our neighbours and to our politicians. We can encourage the production and promotion of similar pro-life videos for our own citizens to remind us of the value, holiness and gift of life.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Protecting children from today's educational propaganda

The important mission of educating the young
The parental task of educating the young in today's secularized society has become very challenging. Parents and teachers are battling the strong winds of political correctness. So while many may not talk about it we are, nonetheless, experiencing an educational crisis. We have lost trust in ourselves and God. What gives meaning and purpose to life? How does one love God and one's neighbour? How do we best work with others to build a better world? Few would disagree that the attempt to answer these kinds of questions should be the soul of a good education.

However, as Canadians we have now reached a point in our culture where we doubt what's most important in our lives. We doubt the value of the human person. We no longer believe in the meaning of truth and what is good. We mistrust each other's intentions and our very institutions like schools and governments. We question the very sacredness of life and its inherent goodness. The crisis in education is really a crisis of what we believe about human life.

The mass media, societal ideas and laws have sown much mistrust and deception. How can we teach young people that there may be 10 to 12 "sexual orientations" and not believe that this is confusing to them and abusive? We are asking children to deny and question their biology and sexuality.  Society tells them that abortion is an act of "freedom" and legalized euthanasia is "caring for others." These lies and doubts then naturally make it very difficult to pass any values from one generation to the next. Why? Mainly because our society doesn't agree anymore on the rules of good behaviour and the moral anchors that can sustain our lives. Our children must accept an anti-Christian education as normal and good.

In the face of this secularized and often immoral thinking, it's too easy to just give in to whatever is happening around us. But parents must resist this temptation and not be afraid to go against the current. We must reclaim our faith and our space in the public square for the sake of the children. Parents are free to assert this right and free to pass it on to their children. But it must be actively done because the state and the educational system are failing to do so. In the fields of technology and science we have made great progress, but we have not done so in the area of character and faith formation for our young. Nobody in his right mind would say that we have made moral progress in the 21st century.

Yes, we do have the freedom to choose the faith. But if it's not lived and then passed on from one generation to another that freedom is lost and absorbed by the current culture. This is all part of evangelization. Each person needs to learn the lesson of the freedom in choosing faith and the responsibility that comes with it. Freedom without moral discipline is a false freedom. Christian values need to be learned in the home; they cannot be inherited. Sacrifices need to be made to keep the faith alive. Parents in the past made great efforts to live and teach the faith to their children and in some cases this even led to martyrdom. The Canadian Martyrs are an example of this. Parents too must be witnesses for the faith and thus safeguard it for their children.

Today a truly human education, a Christian education must be worked for and lived in the home. Parents must reclaim their freedom to be witnesses to the faith. Our culture has rejected the idea of integrating the faith with science, technology and culture. This anti-Christian view is today's secularism. To believe in Christ we need to also believe that faith must be integrated in family life and our public life. As John Paul II often reminded the world not to be afraid because God loves us with all our weaknesses and our sins. And here is the biggest lesson in protecting our children from an anti-Christian and anti-human education: to love one's children as Christ loves us. But this truth has to be lived and learned by each person and every generation. Parents can no longer take for granted a faith friendly culture. It doesn't exist anymore.

To love one's children is to give of self and to sacrifice. This is the foundation of an authentic education. It's what Christ did and continues to do for all humanity. In giving of ourselves we let go of our selfishness and become capable of loving others and God. Children by their very nature are curious and ask many questions. They live in a post-modern information/technological age and a climate of political correctness. And so we should not deny them the truth of the faith that will serve as their guide and purpose in life.

Canada legally permits up to 100,000 abortions every year. The cost of killing the unborn is fully paid with public money. We are starting in Quebec and Ontario to push for legalized euthanasia.  Our society wants to legislate away suffering, pain and even control death. However, as Christians we believe that even suffering and death have a purpose. A good education promotes a culture of life. Loving one another and loving one's children means that we prepare them to withstand even suffering. Loving someone is in part to suffer with them. As parents and good educators, we want our children grow into adulthood and see them use their freedom to do good, to choose life and live the faith. Parents as first educators are charged with this vocation. Parents have the responsibility to help their children respond to God's call to love.

Ultimately a morally sound education will teach the young to use their freedom responsibly in order to serve God and one's neighbour. A Christian education is possible if we build a society that sustains it. Only by proper formation of today's young will this be possible. A Christian education also gives us hope. And this is what parents must endeavor to pass on to their children: hope in one's personal life, in the family and society. Trust in God, not in ourselves or our children and things, is our sure way out of this crisis in education and mistrust in humankind. Educational propaganda can best be countered by embracing God and life itself.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Annunciation: where our true hope and salvation begins

The Annunciation
The Gospel reading for yesterday is taken from St. Luke 1: 26-38. We celebrated the Solemnity of the Annunciation of our Lord. This has to be in the Catholic liturgical calendar the greatest feast to mark the celebration and dignity of life. With Mary's "Fiat" the Word becomes flesh; the Word of Life became human and divine. Mary's co-operates fully with God's plan which gave meaning to her life and all of humanity. She responds with a "Yes" to life and to God's love. It all begins at conception. Here's the reading: 
The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, 'Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.' But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end.'
But Mary said to the angel, 'How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?' And the angel said to her in reply, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.'
'And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.' Mary said, 'Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.' Then the angel departed from her.
The Blessed Mother said "Yes" to the Angel Gabriel and with this she said "Yes" to the Word, to life and to God. This is marks a new start in human salvation. The earth now has a taste of heaven. God has given our lives a purpose. In Mary's womb what becomes flesh, Jesus, is the person and the Lord we seek. This birth that will have no end begins in Mary's womb.

In Redemptor Hominis Blessed John II says this about the wonderful event, "He, the son of God, in a certain way united himself with each man. He worked with human hands, he thought with a human mind. He acted with a human will, and with a human heart he loved. Born of the Virgin Mary, he has truly been made one of us, like to us in all things except sin, he, the Redeemer of man." There's so much hope and love in knowing that human life is made in the image of God.

The Incarnation becomes our truth and our salvation. John Paul II goes on to say in that same document: 
"The Church wishes to serve this single end: that each person may be able to find Christ, in order that Christ may walk with each person the path of life, with the power of the truth about man and the world that is contained in the mystery of the Incarnation and the Redemption and with the power of the love that is radiated by that truth. Against a background of the ever increasing historical processes, which seem at the present time to have results especially within the spheres of various systems, ideological concepts of the world and regimes, Jesus Christ becomes, in a way, newly present, in spite of all his apparent absences, in spite of all the limitations of the presence and of the institutional activity of the Church. Jesus Christ becomes present with the power of the truth and the love that are expressed in him with unique unrepeatable fullness in spite of the shortness of his life on earth and the even greater shortness of his public activity."
What remains is for us is to say "Yes" both as individuals and as a culture to God's Annunciation and Incarnation. To say "Yes" to His plan for human life. To say "Yes" to God's truth and turn away from sin and to welcome every human life. Ultimately what this means is that we embrace the Annunciation and the Incarnation where our true hope and salvation begins and ends. "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us: come, let us adore him." Mary Queen of Peace, pray for us!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Revisiting the truth: "The Canadian Mother and Child"

The Canadian Mother and Child
In a past blog entry, I reviewed the book published by the Department of Health and Welfare Canada tilted, The Canadian Mother and Child. It was first published in 1940, a second printing came out in 1953 and the third and final printing was done in 1968. The Minister of National Health and Welfare for the last publication was John Munro. It's interesting to note that as the sexual revolution began to gain greater speed and cultural acceptance the book was no longer reprinted. With the Omnibus Bill passed in 1968-69, Canada opened the doors to killing the child in the womb by permitting "therapeutic abortion."

Consider these facts. In 1968, the population of Canada, was just over 19,000,000 and the number of babies born were about 400,000. By 2012, the population had grown to just under 35,000,000 with 375,000 babies born that year. The lower reproductive numbers, unless there's a dramatic change, speak for themselves in pointing out the Canadian demographic winter that awaits the nation. Today our government pays for about 100,000 abortions a year. In 1968, the government paid for zero abortions. It was a criminal offence to kill an unborn child.

Now, you may ask, why revisit this book once more? There are many reasons, but the primary one is that the book clearly defines human life at conception. It definitively states that a pregnant woman is carrying a child. The unwritten belief being that the unborn baby has a right to life and to be treated with dignity and respect. Believe it or not, the Canadian Government just forty-six years ago was totally pro-life. The book is an antidote to the present acceptance of the culture of death. Let me now give you more evidence as to why this text is worth a second and third look.

The government's pro-life view begins in the book's introduction with these words: "Even if it is not her first baby, every mother knows there is something special her pregnancy, for each one is unique. The Period of waiting for the baby is often one of the happiest in a woman's experience, and this is particularly true of the Canadian mother today." What a life sustaining and refreshing statement! Why have we chosen to forget today that a pregnant woman is carrying a child and that this is a very happy time for her, the father and the whole family? After all, nothing has really changed biologically about having a baby. What has changed is the way we have verbally rationalized away the baby in the womb. As if by saying that there's no "baby"in the womb makes it so. This is a lie and we all know that it's a lie. We are in total denial.

In addition, this section of the book states its purpose: "It is written so that prospective parents can find answers to their questions about the care of the mother before and after the baby's birth, and about the care of the baby himself." There's no doubt here that an unborn baby is a child with the right to good care. The baby is a baby both before it's born and after. It must be loved at all times. In fact, the introduction adds this, "Once the baby is born you will to busy in admiring him to have much time for reading, so it a good idea to find out something about babies, while you are waiting for yours." You will note that there's nothing here about "a bundle of cells" or "reproductive tissue" that can be suctioned out and thrown away in the garbage. The book is nothing short of an indictment of our present culture that legally permits the killing of the unborn.

Today no government publication, including research organizations trying to improve social and medical services for parents and children, would even dare to suggest that a pregnant mother has a baby in her womb. We are afraid of the truth and have conveniently remapped it. But there's more in the introduction: "The importance of family life is reflected in the number of courses given by religious and community groups in preparation for marriage. Equally important is intelligent preparation for parenthood." Currently religious groups are under attack and openly dismissed by the government. As well, "Intelligent preparation for parenthood" presently may include abortion for any and no reason, killing a baby because it's not a boy, and even in some cases the intentional death of the baby after it's born. The culture of death is now completely embraced by the government and our society. The Canadian Mother and Child is proof that this wasn't always true. Could past governments get this all wrong and we are so right? Of course not. Today instead of supporting religious efforts to help new families the government is hostile towards them. Surely, we should see that there's something horribly and morally wrong here.

The book is divided in four parts and sixteen chapters including an index and an appendix that covers the topic of an emergency delivery. In Part I called "The Expectant Mother" there are at least fifteen references to the idea that that the pregnant mother has a baby in her womb. In describing the process of reproduction we find this comment: "You will want to know how your baby is designed for childbirth and what is happening in your body as your baby grows." There's no question here that the unborn child is in fact a child. "The unborn baby is often called a fetus by the doctor," but it remains a baby nevertheless. And then we find this: "From the very beginning the process of nature sets in motion a whole series of changes which will end in due time, in the birth of a baby." What a moral tragedy that as a society we have turned our backs completely on this scientific and moral truth.

In Part II, titled "The Birth of a Baby" there's a description of the signs of labor and the different stages. Delivery begins with, "The first stage of labor is from the beginning of regular contractions until the cervix has thinned out, and opened to slip back over the baby's head." In Canada, at this point the baby can still be legally and intentionally killed. This is the evil depths that the culture of death has descended to. And where once prenatal clinics where there to give expectant mothers "good medical care" that was "based on scientific findings and facts" today these same places have become killing fields at the hands of the state. They now dispense the many lies of political correctness including the biggest lie that the unborn baby is not a baby and so it can be destroyed at will.

A good government interested in the welfare of its citizens does publish and distribute to new families a book like The Canadian Mother and Child. A good government that wishes to build the common good makes it a priority to promote a culture of life. A good government must help expectant parents and families like it did in the past by giving them a cash allowance for every child. Canada must welcome its young and support strong and caring families. The Canadian Mother and Child points the way to a culture of love and life. It should be reprinted because it's pro-life, pro-family contents aren't outdated; they hold the key to Canada's future. The past here is the future.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A fundraising dinner to defend parental rights

Keynote speaker for the May 24th event: Ezra Levant
On September 12, 2012, Dr. Steve Tourloukis filed a court Application against the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board. Why? He was forced to take this legal step after the school board refused his repeated requests for religious accommodation. Tourloukis is simply seeking a court order declaring that as a practicing Christian Greek Orthodox and parent he ought to have the right and the final authority over his children’s education, especially their moral education. He wants the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board to provide him with advance notification of any class, session or material to be covered which conflicts with his religious beliefs. Tourloukis has merely tried to exercise his parental rights. The board's answer to his request has been, no. And so we are presently in court.

The Parental Rights in Education Defense Fund, PRIEDF is supporting him morally and helping to pay for the legal proceedings. Touloukis, like most parents, does not have the financial resources to do this on his own, especially against the huge bureaucracy and financial resources of a government-run school board. As some of you know, for over a year we have been raising funds for the case.

PRIEDF has already spent close to $30,000. Because the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board continues to aggressively oppose the lawsuit, our executive committee has decided that we need more money to see the case to its conclusion. For the sake of protecting parental rights in Ontario and Canada, we need to do all that we can to try to win this legal battle.

To do this, on Saturday May 24, 2014, we are having a gala dinner event. The school board uses taxpayers’ money and so has deep pockets. So far our board members have been doing their best asking for donations on a personal level. But we need to do more. The issue is an important one. Parents must have the freedom to direct the moral education of their children. We cannot allow the government or school boards to be the co-parent of our children. We hope you agree, and that you will come out to this event to support our objective.

Here are the event details:

Location: Canada Christian College, located at 50 Gervais Dr., Toronto, M3C 1Z3. There's plenty pf parking.

Date: May 24, 2014 at 6:00pm

Cost: $45 per person

Menu: Buffet-style with soft drinks, water, roast beef, chicken, rice and salad

Keynote speaker: Ezra Levant, Sun News Host and Canadian warrior for freedom 

You may purchase individual tickets or an entire table (8-10) for your group or church community by going online or calling us and leaving a message. The phone numbers to call are 647-258-4845 or toll free 877-811-2713.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter and we hope to see there. Please do spread the word. Let's pray for the success of our efforts!

Lou Iacobelli
Chair, PRIEDF