Sunday, January 30, 2011

Canada Needs More Young Pro-life Leaders Like Lia Mills

Have you heard of Lia Mills? She was the youngest pro-life speakers at last year’s international pro-life conference called, Building a Global Culture of Life, held in Ottawa. She’s only fourteen years old. Her pro-life battle started back in Grade 7. She chose to write on the topic of abortion in order to complete a school speech assignment. Even after her teacher told her to choose a less controversial topic and under the threat of being disqualified, Lia did not change her mind. Her teacher thought Lia would not make it to the final round because she had made an argument against abortion and had also a referred to God. She was asked to remove the sentence about God. She refused claiming that it was God who had given her the topic.

It doesn’t end here. It gets even better. When she delivered the speech at the contest, one judge refused to listen and walked out. But like a good Christian soldier Lia remained unswerved. She went on to spread the teaching of the faith by posting her speech on YouTube. Over one million visitors have presently viewed it. The incident has strengthened her commitment to promote a pro-life culture in Canada. In addition, Lia has worked on developing arguments against euthanasia and defining the very essence of what it means to be human. . Surely, this young lady is an inspiration to other students and parents who are trying to live their faith and promote the truth.



Lia Mills is a great young soldier for life. Canada needs more young people like her who are not afraid to be warriors to give witness and to support the dignity of life. It’s not easy to put oneself out there on YouTube and argue for those destroyed unborn lives that cannot speak for themselves. In a nation that legally permits the killing of over 100,000 babies a year, where the culture of death is so pervasive, you can be sure to be criticized and put on the defensive for speaking with a religious counter-cultural voice. In view of these difficulties, we ought to do whatever we can to support her efforts and pray for her and her family. I have written this article to introduce Lia as a Christian model to other young Canadians. I applaud her stand. I fully support what she's doing.

In her talk, at the Ottawa conference, she said that under normal circumstances nobody wants to face conflict but “the truth is that as pro-life people, even if we are Canadian, we cannot avoid conflict, but we must embrace it in the right way. My family and I have learned to embrace conflict.” In the innocence of youth, we can find a lot of wisdom for the rest of us in the pro-life movement. She, also, urged other young people to answer God’s call and trust Him to respond to every problem, no matter how big it may be to us.

She went on to say that her experience has made her realize, “I was stepping into a spiritual battle I was not aware of. Some things will only change when I become willing to change the status-quo.” Since the current Canadian status-quo is one of pro-death, isn’t it every Christian’s baptismal mission to protect the sanctity and dignity of life?

May God bless young Lia for giving all Canadians, young and old, a shining example of putting into action our beliefs. We highly commend your work and courage to advance a culture of life. We pray that our merciful Lord through your valiant efforts converts the hearts of those who are anti-life.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Modern Day Good Samaritan Living in Toronto

If you had to list three or four characteristics that make for great doctors what would they be? You would probably say they need to be experts in their fields. You would include the need for professional care and respect for patients. You would add that they take the extra time needed to properly respond to a patient's concerns and give that important appointment when needed. But would you say they ought to start a Canadian charity that sends food and goods to needy children in the entire world? Dr. Andrew Simone embodies the answers to all these statements. If you don’t know him, let me introduce you to a respected doctor, a man of science, a triathlete and above all a man of faith and prayer.

Dr. Simone and his wife Joan established Canadian Food for Children (CFFC) in 1985. The Simones came to the conclusion to give away most of their material wealth and donate it to charity. Mother Teresa encouraged them to collect and distribute food to those in need because in many missionary places in the world, food is simply not available to buy. Dr. Simone still has letters written to him by Mother Teresa to support and to promote his charitable work. Many people, organizations and companies make food donations to the warehouse. The Canadian Food for Children Warehouse is located at 1258 Lakeshore East, Mississauga, Ontario.

The Simones began contacting companies to donate non-perishable food and goods. Many comapnies generously responded. Currently schools, churches and charitable groups also donate money and grocery items. From humble beginnings, CFFC now ships more than five million kilograms of food and other necessities per year to children in some 30 countries worldwide for distribution by local missionaries. The charity has thousands of volunteers across Canada, but no paid staff. If you do visit the warehouse, you will meet the volunteers that make this charitable activity a success. Many times I have encountered high school students and their teachers helping to sort and pack the donated items. What a wonderful way to teach those students a hands-on lesson about loving one’s neighbor and building the common good.

Dr. Simone, who maintains a dermatology practice in Toronto, and Mrs. Simone, are recipients of the Papal Cross, Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, as well as the Christian Stewardship Award, St. Anthony’s International Award for Soilidarity with the Poor and the William Kurelek Award. They have 13 children and 30 grandchildren, and are members of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Toronto. But many days of the week you will find Dr. Simone working with the volunteers at the Warehouse.

Despite the time constraints of his medical practice and working for CFFC, Dr. Simone often speaks in local schools to spread the message that hunger can be conquered, and that as little as 10 cents a day can feed a child. If you get a chance to listen to one of his talks, do so because you will hear the voice of a modern man of science quietly and humbly doing the work of the Good Samaritan. Dr. Simone is funny, he’s spiritual and he helps to strengthen our faith in God and our fellow man. You can listen to the speech he gave at the HMWN’s Agora talks by visiting this link, www.hmwn.net.

In 2008, The Catholic Civil Rights League awarded the Archbishop Adam Exner Award to Dr. Andrew A. Simone and Joan Simone, founders of Canadian Food for Children. The League award recognizes Catholic excellence in public life. In accepting the award Dr. Simone said, “Everything we have done has been centered on our Catholic faith, in loyalty to the Magisterium.” I have talked to Dr. Simone a number of times and he clearly believes we have plenty of food to go around if we have our priorities straight. In his words, “I don’t think the problem is a shortage of food. I think the problem is greed on the part of adults; that’s why we try to reach schoolchildren with our message.” Here's what League President Philip Horgan said, “The achievements of Dr. and Mrs. Simone in living simply in order to share with the needy, and providing leadership in a much-needed initiative, are a true inspiration to all of us. CFFC is a true example of faith in action, and we know that countless children are living healthy lives because of their efforts.”

What Dr. Simone is doing is providing Catholic leadership. He is not afraid to bring his faith into the public square and to respond to our baptismal call to help the thirsty and feed the hungry among us. God only knows how many lives have been saved because of his efforts in putting belief into action. We pray for Dr. Simone’s charitable work. It is an inspiration to all Canadians. Why not make it a point to visit his warehouse and be part of this effort to promote a culture of life in Canada and help export it to the rest of the world, by feeding, clothing and loving the poor children of the world? And isn’t this the message of the Gospel which ought to guide all Christians?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

True Religious Freedom Brings Peace

On January 1, 2011, World Day of Peace, Pope Benedict issued an important message titled, “Religious Freedom, the Path to Peace”. He begins his message by recalling the sad event that took place in Baghdad last October 31. As the faithful gathered to celebrate the Mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, they were attacked and as a result two priests and over fifty people were killed. Christians there are routinely discriminated and persecuted because of their faith. More recently six Coptic Christians were killed in a church in southern Egypt. Christian minorities, in Africa, Korea, China and Asia, cannot openly practice their religion because they don’t have that right or they fear for their lives.

In the developed countries like Canada, one may be tempted to think that we are removed from these terrible acts of violence. Thank God that we are. However, the dangers of religious intolerance have largely crept in through the legal system and through our indifference, as they have in much of the West. Canada has legalized same-sex marriage and abortion. Secularism now pervades every aspect of our lives. In Quebec, Catholic institutions have had to go to court to continue to teach the Catechism of the Church. The Quebec government is outrightly hostile to the Church. Have you not noticed that there’s a political agenda in our nation to remove and suppress religion in public discourse and in public places?

Here how the Pope puts it: “There also exist – as I have said – more sophisticated forms of hostility to religion which in Western countries occasionally find expression in a denial of history and the rejection of religious symbols which reflect the identity and the culture of the majority of citizens. Often these forms of hostility also foster hatred and prejudice; they are inconsistent with a serene and balanced vision of pluralism and the secularity of institutions, to say nothing of the fact that coming generations risk losing contact with the priceless spiritual heritage of their countries.” (13)

The Pope eloquently argues that only by permitting religious freedom can the state make it possible for the building of a true and long lasting peace. Christianity is a force for good; it’s a force for life and the development of the common good. The state must protect the citizens’ sacred right of life and this includes the spiritual life. Religious freedom will insure mutual respect among people. The traditional family rooted in true Christian principles becomes a school for freedom and peace.

According to the Pope, the state is weakened by religious intolerance because “Religious freedom is at the origin of moral freedom. Openness to truth and perfect goodness, openness to God, is rooted in human nature; it confers full dignity on each individual and is the guarantee of full mutual respect between persons. Religious freedom should be understood, then, not merely as immunity from coercion, but even more fundamentally as an ability to order one’s own choices in accordance with truth.”(3)

Why does the Pope write this message to Christians and to the world? He writes this important statement to express his pain in the face of such terrible events. He wishes to be in solidarity with those who are suffering. He wants to pray for those who have tragically lost their lives, pray for the survivors and pray for world peace. As the Vicar of Christ, he also wants to tell the world only when it welcomes religious freedom, only when it embraces the Word, and makes room for the message of the Gospel can we hope to have the peace that the world desperately needs. He wants to tell the world that true religious freedom brings peace.

I’ll conclude with this thought from the Pope: “It could be said that among the fundamental rights and freedoms rooted in the dignity of the person, religious freedom enjoys a special status. When religious freedom is acknowledged, the dignity of the human person is respected at its root, and the ethos and institutions of peoples are strengthened. On the other hand, whenever religious freedom is denied, and attempts are made to hinder people from professing their religion or faith and living accordingly, human dignity is offended, with a resulting threat to justice and peace, which are grounded in that right social order established in the light of Supreme Truth and Supreme Goodness.”(5)

I hope you read the entire message. Only by informing ourselves can we better defend and practice our faith. Our Holy Father the Pope is writing to you and me. I’m sure he wants us to read, to live and to spread his religious message of peace and love.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

What Can We Do in 2011 to Help Build A Culture of Life in Canada?

One of main goals of this blog is to work together to create an awareness of the need, in both our local parish communities and in Canada, to better live our faith in order to build a culture of life and the true common good. It was John Paul II who showed the world that armed with just the Word of truth one could be instrumental in bringing down communism in Poland and East Germany, reveal the weaknesses of unbridled capitalism and uncover the futility of trying to build solidarity in a modern culture where self-interest and profits rule the day.

As Canadian Christians too many of us have allowed, no doubt unintentionally, for far too long now the anti-life culture to strengthen. We see evidence of this in the legalization of abortion, same-sex marriage and the efforts to remove religious education in school curricula. Perhaps, we have silently argued: Let’s be tolerant and perhaps all this might just go away. In the name of being politically correct, have we unwittingly said yes to the current trend by compromising on life issues? Many of us, may even be afraid or even embarrassed to bring our religious beliefs to the public square.

We have seen as our university campuses no longer welcome free speech when it comes to the pro-life side. Our politicians of all the major parties and level of government have generally adopted a culture of relativism on just about every moral issue. When it comes to sexuality, it seems the more liberal your attitude the "better" it is. Abortion, homosexual "rights", pornography channels approved by the CRTC, the rampant rise of new age practices and the push for euthanasia are all part of what it now means to live in the modern fabric of the Canadian society. The trend today is to regard morality as a relative idea, and the very notion of Truth, that there is a right and wrong, is often laughed at, if not rejected outright. About these modern troubles Pope Benedict warns us in his Christmas Greeting to Curia, that there now exists, "the sense that moral consensus is collapsing".

Now ask yourself: Have these liberal ideas, that have shaped Canada for the last forty years, truly improved our lives? I think not, and I believe there are others who support this view. In fact, a laissez-faire morality has done the opposite. Taxpayers are forced to pay for abortions and some want to extend this to euthanasia and assisted-suicide. Pro-life university student groups, like the one at Carleton, have had their funding removed. Religious questions are not welcomed in the pages or the screens of our country’s mass media. Abortion has completely devalued the meaning of life; life has been reduced to a mere commodity that we can buy, sell and discard at will.

So, what can we do to try to change this trend as we enter 2011? To respond to this, Domenic, the other writer of Everyday for Life Canada, and myself agreed that our first and most important action must begin and end with prayer, especially the Rosary. Prayer helps us to put Christ at the heart of all our efforts; only with Christ can we hope to succeed in building a Canadian culture of life. As we start the New Year, let's use Christmas, the Feasts of the Holy Family, the Epiphany and the Baptism of the Lord to point us in the right direction. From this, we can then humbly try to respond to these questions: Has the time come for more of us to speak up against this anti-life culture? How can Christians make a public case for "truth" and for human dignity? If Christian like ourselves don't address these important life issues, who will defend the truth? And please, do think of your own ideas. Our effort is to propose, not to impose.

Sure there are going to personal risks for taking a stand and sacrifices to be made. We may not be well liked by some family members, our co-workers and friends, but that’s a small price to pay if our goal is to spread the Gospel. However, through honest dialogue we have the opportunity to find others to help us. But we must also respect and pray for those who disagree with us. In some cases, speaking up may even jeopardize our job or a promotion. The decision to consider publicly witnessing one’s faith is difficult, but it needs to done, if we are prepared to live it, and nobody can do it for anybody else. Every person is ultimately responsible before God for the choices made or not made.

In addition, we can try to unite our efforts with other groups. We must pray for greater unity among Christians. Jews, Christians, Protestants and many others are in agreement with us on the important life and death issues, such as marriage, abortion, the dignity of the human person. On these moral issues, we can put aside our minor disagreements to promote the common good. There’s a shared need to defend and advance a number of basic principles: the dignity of life, the social and economic importance marriage, and the right for religious freedom and expression. Remember that any societal attempt to remove religion from our lives is a way of rupturing our relationship with God. Once this happens, evil can flourish.

In the end, we should not be afraid to discuss our pro-life ideas. Sometimes, we have said nothing because we don't want to offend others or for no particular reason. This approach has totally backfired. It has lead to the legalization of abortion, same-sex marriage and too often to social pressure not to discuss religion in public. We cannot compromise with such evils as abortion and child pornography. Our society needs spiritual healing by bringing Christ back to the centre of its existence. This begins with you and me. We must always put all our faith, our hope and our trust in God. In rejecting God, Canada has passed unjust laws that have no basis in natural law and divine law. As a result, we have a legal anti-life culture resting a totally flawed morality. Ultimately, Christ will win because he is the only answer. I will end with one last consideration for us to use the gifts God has given us: What do you think we and our families can do in 2011 to help Canada build a culture of life? Happy New Year to everyone!