Mar 31, 2011

The Apple vs the Cookie!

The children were lined up in the cafeteria of a Catholic elementary school for lunch. At the head of the table was a large pile of apples. The nun made a note, and posted on the apple tray: "Take only ONE. God is watching."

Moving further along the lunch line, at the other end of the table was a large pile of chocolate chip cookies. A child had written a note, "Take all you want. God is watching the apples.”

Lent is a great time to think about the fruit and the cookies. Maybe you’ve even given up chocolate as many people do for Lent? How many of us know that we should probably eat the apple – it’s healthier, more nutritious, etc. but we end up going for the chocolate cookies because we just have a weakness and want to indulge?

Let's use the analogy as we reflect for a moment on our annual appeal, ShareLife. The weekend of April 1/2 is ShareLife Sunday and probably a good time to consider ShareLife as the apple in our life, the one that we probably should pay more attention to, that will help our spiritual health and the reality of those who are struggling both here at home and around the world. While the cookie or excess in our life may be more tempting, what are we really called to focus on?

ShareLife is our annual appeal not someone else’s campaign. It has its roots in the catholic community. For those not completely familiar with the history of the charity, it started way back in 1976 when the Archbishop of the time, Philip Pocock, made a courageous decision. The United Way of Greater Toronto funded a number of Catholic agencies at the time but made a decision to include funding for a number of agencies that supported pro-abortion activities.

Archbishop Pocock took a very firm stand and decided to sever ties with the United Way of Greater Toronto. This created a significant gap in funding and the need to start a new charity to bridge the gap for our catholic charities. The result? ShareLife was born.

It was a rallying cry for Catholics who literally went door to door in their neighbourhoods asking people to support the cause. 35 years later, the charity touches the lives of more than 225,000 people every year, they’ve raised hundreds of millions of dollars and are a leader in fiscal responsibility with more than 90 cents of every dollar going directly to those who need it most.

It can be easy to think of people turning to ShareLife agencies for help as “those people”, the faceless or nameless individuals who will be served each year. But we’re really talking about your neighbour, relative or close friend. I can think of three examples in the last month of people in my own circle of contacts who have turned to a ShareLife agency for assistance. Wouldn’t we do everything we could to help a friend in need?

ShareLife agencies continue to help those most in need: a pregnant teen in crisis with nowhere to turn, a couple looking for counselling to open the lines of communication once again; helping seniors live their twilight years with dignity and compassion; a summer camp experience for deaf children.

They also support overseas development and missionary work, reaching out to more than 60 countries worldwide. We can't forget ShareLife's support of men studying for the priesthood at St. Augustine's Seminary either. More than 225,000 people will be served by ShareLife's 30+ agencies this year. Quite a family.

Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words. That quote from St. Francis of Assisi reminds us of our call as members of the catholic family in our Archdiocese to live a faith that acts.

So this brief reflection is not going to challenge you to go door to door. I’m not going to ask you to canvass your neighbours to support ShareLife. (What a relief you're thinking...)What I am going to ask is that you personally make a sacrificial gift to the ShareLife appeal this year. The challenge is to put down the indulgence - the chocolate chip cookie for the healthier alternative - the apple.

How can each one of us be that beacon of hope to Frank, the alcoholic to Sally and John who are in a broken relationship? Who will shepherd Rahim, a newcomer to our country or Linda, a special needs child?

These are the apples among us, waiting to be fed through your support of ShareLife. So this Lent, you didn't just give up chocolate. You changed a life forever, following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. Not a bad reason to shelve the cookie and keep on sharing...

Photos: Archdiocese of Toronto

Mar 28, 2011

Vianney Drama Comes to Archdiocese...

A compelling drama is making its way to the Archdiocese of Toronto this May, highlighting the life of St. John Vianney. You may recall his name being front and centre during last the Year of the Priest and this time around, the Archdiocesan Office of Vocations is bringing in the production to help raise awareness around this most powerful story.

The goal? To highlight the beautfy and importance of the priesthood, encourage vocations, strengthen the sacraments and create an increased devotion to St. John Vianney. That's no short order...

A description of the production comes from creators of the play, St. Luke Productions:

Leonardo Defilippis's latest one man stage production, VIANNEY, opens amidst the chaos of the French Revolution, a time whic mirrors the secuarlization, materialism and anti-religious sentiment of our own day.

Against this dramatic backdrop, a simple ignorant peasant priest enters the backwater town or Ars, a place where no one cares much about their faith, or sees the church as particularly relevant. They don't expect much out of John Vianney. But then the impossible begins to happen through this unlikely sheppard - through his example, his love and his sacrifice, the townspeople begin to change, begin to listen and begin to pray.

Here is the hero we need in our day - a priest who, like Christ, pours himself out with complete unselfishness who never gives up on a single soul. The VIANNEY live production will enthrall audiences with this struggle against all odds by a simple man who perseveres in spite of so much discouragement and adversity. The play incorporates state-of-the-art technology projected onto a screen, offering a full cast of characters. Leonardo Defilippis' portrayal will bring all to tears, laughter and a deep experience of the presence of God in our midst."

You can find further information by visiting both and Locally, the Office of Vocations (416) 968-0997 can fill in the details.

The Archdiocese of Toronto Tour is scheduled to reach each region of the diocese with perfomances as follows:

May 2 - St. Marguerite d'Youville Church, Brampton
May 3- St. Clare of Assisi Church, Woodbridge
May 4 - St. John Vianney Church, Barrie
May 5 - St. Andrew Kim Church, North York
May 6 - St. Isaac Jogues Church, Pickering

All performances begin at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $10 each and the production is suitable for ages 9 + up. You can order tickets through the parishes listed above - note they will go quickly thus the reason you're hearing about the production in this space well in advance.

You can view the 2011 trailer of the Vianney Drama below. Another opportunity to learn more about our faith, the lives of the saints and to explore the vocation in each one of us. St. John Vianney, pray for us!

Mar 24, 2011

March Madness Isn't Just Basketball...

Basketball fans throughout North America often can't contain their excitement with the arrival of March Madness, the college basketball tournament that brings together top teams from throughout the USA to battle it out on the court. It's a busy time, appointment viewing for many and no doubt the reason for blood pressure fluctuations in front of many a television or computer.

That said, here in the Archdiocese, you might say we've got our own March Madness underway, not of the sporting kind but with all sorts of events and activities taking place in our midst. Not to mention the Lenten journey that continues - if you're keeping track at home, we're already a couple of weeks into this season of fasting, almsgiving and repentence. So for a taste of what's on deck in the next few days, here's a sampling of what's in store:

March 24, 2011 - the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute is holding its annual Cardinal Ambrozic Lecture. Always insightful and full of thought provoking tidbits, this year is no different with Toronto Auxiliary Bishop, William McGrattan presenting this year on the topic of "Spirituality & Health Care". Given the current state of affairs where the secularization of everything from schools to hospitals is in play, this is worth a listen. Let's not forget the roots of health care in our province can be attributed to many of the women religious who rolled up their sleeves and got the job done. The lecture takes place at Father Madden Auditorium, Carr Hall, 100 St. Joseph St. (University of Toronto: St. Mike's College) at 7 p.m. All are welcome.

March 24 - 26 will bring together close to 150 for the Canadian 'Anglicanorum Coetibus' conference taking place at Mississauga's Queen of Apostles Retreat Centre. Pre-registration is required. As previously noted, this will be an opportunity for delegates to learn more about how the "AC" will be implemented here in Canada. Guest speakers include Fr. Christopher Phillips from Sant Antonio Texas, founding pastor of the first Anglican Use parish, erected in 1983 under the terms of the Pastoral Provision; Archbishop Collins, Delegate, Anglicanorum Coetibus in Canada (as appointed by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) and Father Aidan Nichols, O.P. , Affiliated Lecturer in the University of Cambridge and author of some thirty books among many other impressive credentials.

In the midst of all this, beyond our Archdiocese, Quebec City prepares to install its new ordinary, Archbishop Gerald Lacroix on March 25 which allows us to surmise...Can the Archbishop of Toronto actually attend the AC conference, get to Quebec City for the installation and back for a Saturday morning talk at original conference? Pray for good weather and on time flights and we can say yes to that...

The end of the month (March 31-April 1) will also see Regis College (Jesuit School of Theology) & Salt & Light Catholic Media Foundation play host to "Word of God: Light of Love - A Symposium on "Verbum Domini" with an impressive line-up of speakers. Presenters will include Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, Bishop Ronald Fabbro and Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus. Archbishop Thomas Collins will lead a closing “Lectio Divina.” More info can be found here.

Also in the final days of March, we'll bid a fond farewell to Toronto Auxiliary Bishop Peter Hundt, soon to be the new Bishop of Corner Brook and Labrador. He's already had two visits to Atlantic Canada since the Vatican's March 1 announcement with his formal installation set for April 13. We'll miss him and his pastoral approach to any host of issues, offering our prayers and best wishes in his new role. To think we had a full complement of Archbishop and four Auxiliary Bishops for just over a year...

While many have already focused on their "final four" picks for the March tournament, others are starting to put their own list together for who the newest auxiliary bishop of Toronto may be and when in fact that announcement may come? While "only Rome knows" we can anticipate some time, likely a minimum of six months before such an announcement.

So we'll try to turn this madness into gladness with an appreciation for the wonderful opportunities and people involved in keeping the Archdiocese ticking. Through it all, let's just make sure we keep our eye on the ball...

Photos:, Archdiocese of Toronto

Mar 22, 2011

"60 Minutes" Profiles New York Archbishop...

It's not often 60 Minutes spends a third of its program devoted to profiling a Catholic leader but that's exactly what they did this past week in Morley Safer's wide ranging profile of His Grace, Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

No doubt countless hours of footage were recorded and ultimately edited down to 14 minutes. The Archbishop covers a wide range of topics including his vocation story, diverse Archdiocese, clergy abuse crisis and even some shots on his exercise bike! Full clip appears below.

Mar 18, 2011

In Solidarity with Japan...

We've received a number of inquiries this past week from the catholic community asking how they might be able to support those suffering in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Below you'll find a statement from the ShareLife website...

Japan was struck on March 11 by one of the largest earthquakes to ever hit the country, followed by a massive tsunami that devastated coastal regions of the country. At present, approximately 3,500 people are reported dead with thousands more missing.

We have received a number of calls about this crisis at the ShareLife Office and we would like to make you aware of funding matters related to the relief efforts in Japan. Caritas Internationalis, the Catholic Church’s official international relief organization, issued a statement today to the global members of the Caritas network indicating that no emergency appeal is being issued at this time. At present, Caritas Japan has not requested assistance.

Should this situation change and an appeal be issued, we will keep you apprised.

There has been a desire in the Archdiocese of Toronto to make contributions to relief efforts in solidarity with the people of Japan. To assist this process, the ShareLife office is accepting contributions should you wish to help. Funds will be forwarded through Development and Peace (the Caritas representative in Canada) to Caritas Japan. There, they will be held in trust to support rehabilitation and recovery needs in that country as they emerge over the next three to five years. There is no clear indication at this time how the funds will be used. Those wishing to help through a financial contribution may do so in the following ways:

• Online through ShareLife’s website:
• By phone through the ShareLife office – 1-800-263-2595 or 416-934-3411
• Through the parish, making cheques payable to: ShareLife – Parish Name – Earthquake – Japan

We offer our prayers for the millions of people in Japan affected by this disaster, those who have died and those who will persevere and rebuild their homes and lives. Thank you for your ongoing efforts to serve those in need, both here at home and around the world.

Below you'll find additional information from Caritas Internationalis...

Caritas Japan has launched a national donation campaign and is working closely with dioceses to support those affected by the earthquake and tsunami which hit the country on 11th March. “We have received so many emails from all continents, filled with words of compassion and prayer. We are very grateful for this solidarity. We believe that aid activity is needed, but prayer is also important in such a situation,” said Bishop Isao Kikuchi, president of Caritas Japan.

Caritas Japan is in contact with the diocese of Sendai, one of the worst affected areas. It is preparing to start providing relief with a focus on those with no access to public services. Caritas Japan does not intend to develop a large-scale response operation to this disaster, but it will be working closely with the affected dioceses and other organisations to support vulnerable people affected by this disaster.

Caritas Japan says it will concentrate its effort much more for the rehabilitation phase with a big focus on providing moral and psychological support to those deeply affected by the disaster.

Photos: CNN, BBC

Mar 15, 2011

The St. Patrick in each of us...

The annual St. Patrick's Day celebration gives everyone in our diverse country an opportunity to "be Irish if just for a day". If you'd like to join in the annual mass in honour of St. Patrick, stop by St. Michael's Cathedral March 17 at 10:00 a.m. Auxiliary Bishop of Toronto, William McGrattan is the presider and homilist this year and in addition to a sea of green (and the St. Michael's Choir School Alumni Choir), you'll also find representation in the procession from many of our ethnic communities from across the Archdiocese, gathering to honour our Irish heritage in a place where our first Bishop, Michael Power, began the construction of the Cathedral and, to this day, remains buried below the altar.

As for St. Patrick, it's sometimes hard to tell what part of the story about the famous saint is fact and what part is fiction. While many associate him in our secular world with green beer and shamrocks, it's also believed that St. Patrick authored the hauntingly beautiful prayer known as "The Breastplate of St. Patrick."

Most are familiar with just one section of the famous prayer which includes the words, "Christ shield me on this day: Christ be with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me" The prayer goes on to ask..."Christ in quiet and in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in the mouth of friend and stranger."

For those who haven't had the pleasure of reciting the entire prayer, you'll find it below. To all who are Irish at least for a day, we give thanks for the rich heritage the "green" roots continue to nurture in our faith community. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

The Breastplate of Saint Patrick

I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through belief in the Threeness, through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.

I arise today through the strength of Christ with His Baptism, through the strength of His Crucifixion with His Burial, through the strength of His Resurrection with His Ascension, through the strength of His descent for the Judgment of Doom.

I arise today through the strength of the love of Cherubim in obedience of Angels, in the service of the Archangels, in hope of resurrection to meet with reward, in prayers of Patriarchs, in predictions of Prophets, in preachings of Apostles, in faiths of Confessors, in innocence of Holy Virgins, in deeds of righteous men.

I arise today, through the strength of Heaven: light of Sun, brilliance of Moon, splendour of Fire, speed of Lightning, swiftness of Wind, depth of Sea, stability of Earth, firmness of Rock.

I arise today, through God's strength to pilot me: God's might to uphold me, God's wisdom to guide me, God's eye to look before me, God's ear to hear me, God's word to speak for me, God's hand to guard me, God's way to lie before me, God's shield to protect me, God's host to secure me: against snares of devils, against temptations of vices, against inclinations of nature, against everyone whoshall wish me ill, afar and anear, alone and in a crowd.

I summon today all these powers between me (and these evils): against every cruel and merciless power that may oppose my body and my soul, against incantations of false prophets, against black laws of heathenry, against false laws of heretics, against craft of idolatry, against spells of women and smiths and wizards, against every knowledge that endangers man's body and soul. Christ to protect me today against poison, against burning, against drowning, against wounding, so that there may come abundance of reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me,Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ in breadth, Christ in length, Christ in height, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through belief in the Threeness, through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation. Salvation is of the Lord. Salvation is of the Lord. Salvation is of Christ.

May Thy Salvation, O Lord, be ever with us.

Photos: Archdiocese of Toronto

Dublin 2012: Preparing for Pilgrimage...

The birth of these very pages had their origin in the 2008 International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec City. Hard to believe that it's coming up to almost three years since that historical event took place in the birthplace of our faith in Canada. Several hundred pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Toronto made the trek to la belle province where the oft marinated pilgrims battled the elements, broken down buses and other interesting challenges to embrace a pilgrimage of faith.

Well now it's Ireland's turn. As we approach St. Patrick's Day, it's fitting that we turn our attention for a wee moment to the preparations underway across the ocean for the 50th International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) which will take place in Dublin just a year or so from now (June 10-17, 2012). The organizing team held their official media launch last week to raise awareness around the extensive preparations underway to welcome the world.

And if there's anywhere that needs a shot in the arm both spiritually and economically, it's Ireland. The spiritual cup is dry for many Irish who have struggled with an abuse scandal that has prompted the Vatican to ask several bishops (including our own Archbishop Collins) to conduct an Apostolic Visitation to get a lay of the land so to speak and assess what can be done to provide pastoral support to a place this is still hurting.

The organizing team of the IEC has not ignored this reality, mindful of the many challenges on the ground in adopting as its theme, The Eucharist: Communion with Christ and with one another. As part of the media launch, the team outlined some of the connections with the conference theme:

The challenge for the 2012 congress is precisely one of deepening communion, in a world in which many forms of community have collapsed. In Ireland, as in the wider world, much has changed since the last Congress was celebrated here in 1932.

· Ireland has a proud missionary culture, but Christianity in Ireland is lived today in the midst of an increasingly secular culture.

· The Catholic Church has made a huge contribution to the welfare of children through education and healthcare, but the Church is also implicated in the abuse of children by some clergy and religious and by the failure of Church authorities to respond adequately or openly to that abuse.

· Ireland has recently experienced a time of significant economic growth and has seen a significant improvement in the quality of life of its citizens. In the past few years, however, it has become increasingly clear that much of this economic growth was built on the desire for excessive profit which placed ordinary people at extreme risk of economic disaster.

In the face of their scandal, the first disciples, paralysed by fear, locked themselves in the upper room. It is not surprising then that people should wonder about the wisdom of having a Eucharistic Congress “at a time like this.” It was in the face of betrayal and failure (at least in human terms) that Jesus broke out of the tomb and made His way to the place where the disciples were gathered, reconciling them and restoring the communion that had been fractured by their sins and their human weakness. In much the same way now, we need to rediscover the meaning of His presence among us so that we can renew the Communion with one another which has been so fractured. He Himself will be our teacher. This is what the Eucharistic Congress is about and it must be a journey rather than an event.

Having experienced the Quebec City IEC first hand, it certainly provided a deep experience of prayer, pilgrimage and fellowship with pilgrims from around the world. Based on the assessment above, perhaps the gathering will be a particular moment of conversion for the church in Ireland.

In our own country, representatives from dioceses throughout Canada will gather in our Archdiocese this week to begin the dialogue about the national involvement in Dublin 2012. While we can't expect a delegation the size of which traveled to Quebec, you can be sure there will be healthy representation from across Canada. Locally, here in the Archdiocese, we will shortly begin to look at the best way to mobilize our pilgrims, considering the necessary logistics and gauging the interest from parish to parish.

For the history buffs, the last time Dublin hosted the IEC was in 1932 and many credit the meeting with helping to heal deep divisions from the civil war. Prior to Quebec City (2008) recent IEC's took place in Guadaljara (Mexico) (2004) and Rome (2000). Other gatherings have taken place everywhere from Bogota to Bombay, Barcelona to Budapest. Quebec City actually broke even in terms of finances for the IEC and Ireland is trying to set itself up to do the same.

For those interested in learning more about 2012 in Dublin, you can visit the very extensive IEC website here, with information accessible in seven different languages. There's a host of pastoral preparation resources to get you started in addition to plenty of practical info. Whether or not you plan on attending, we can join together in prayer for the Irish people and all those who are prepping to pack their spiritual bags on an historic journey of faith.

Photos: IEC Dublin 2012, Archdiocese of Toronto

Mar 11, 2011

New Book From Archbishop Launched...

For those who are looking for an additional Lenten resource to assist their prayer experience, you may wish to consider our own Archbishop's newly released book, "Pathway to our Hearts". The book is a compilation of his first year of Lectio Divina evenings at St. Michael's Cathedral reflecting on the Sermon on the Mount.

The book also includes an introduction to help readers more easily understand the concept of Lectio Divina or "sacred reading". From the Archdiocesan Lectio Divina website here's a brief snippet from the Archbishop to introduce you to this form of prayer:

“Lectio Divina” (“divine, or sacred, reading”) is the name given to a spiritual tradition among Christians over the last two thousand years, in which they attentively and prayerfully read the word of God. Although there is an element of study in “Lectio Divina”, it is not the same as Bible Study, or exegesis, where one seeks to interpret the sacred text through analysis, and with the help of the work of scripture scholars. In Lectio Divina we seek not to master or grasp the sacred text, but rather through it, prayerfully and silently, to come into the presence of God. We seek to be humbly attentive to God’s Holy Word, to savour it, and to let it enter into our heart as much as our heads, so that it may transform us.

One approach to Lectio Divina is simply to move systematically though a book of the Bible, but it never involves worrying about “covering” a certain quantity of text: what matters more is the quality of our humble attentiveness. We choose a small portion of the sacred text, and reflect prayerfully upon it.

Lectio Divina is not intended to increase our intellectual knowledge of the Bible (though it also has that effect); instead, it is intended to draw us closer to God, and to transform our attitudes and behaviour.

If you'd prefer to hear an explanation directly from the Archbishop, you can find video clips explaining Lectio Divina on our diocesan web page devoted to the monthly gatherings here.

The Archbishop is participating in two public book launches at Toronto's Daughters of St. Paul bookstore (March 11 & 19) for those who wish to meet him in person and learn more. You can find more details here. Books are available at religious bookstores (Daughters of St. Paul & Joseph's Inspirational) as well as online through more traditional outlets like

Remember, you can join in the Lectio Divina experience live every month from September to June. Full details and and dates can be found here. Monthly gatherings are also broadcast on Salt & Light and available on YouTube. A note to loyal attendees - the Archbishop has had to postpone this year's May 2 Lectio as he will be attending the beatification of Pope John Paul II.

Congrats to the Archbishop on the release of this exciting resource to add to our spiritual toolbox!

Photo: Archdiocese of Toronto

Mar 8, 2011

40 Ways to Raise the Bar this Lent!

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent for Catholics. We see it as a time for prayer, fasting and almsgiving. 40 days leading us up to Holy Week as we revisit the final days of Christ, his death and ultimately his resurrection on Easter So for those looking for some tangible ways to "live" Lent this year, here's 40 ways in no particular order that you can be more engaged in the spiritual journey that is underway. To put it mildly, it's a whole lot more than giving up chips. So let's the raise the bar this Lent!

1. Wear your ashes proudly - all day. On the bus, in the workplace, everywhere you go.
2. A more intentional prayer life - consider morning, mid-day and evening prayer.
3. Read a good book on spirituality, one that will enrich your spiritual journey (Pope Benedict's Jesus of Nazareth Volume 2 comes out March 10 if you're looking for ideas).
4. Make a prayer basket at home - slips of paper or construction paper hearts (invite kids to participate) writing names or intentions that each person around the table picks out before each meal.
5. Attend weekday mass.
6. Say the rosary - even better if you don't mind bringing out your beads in public - on the bus, coffee shop or anywhere else people gather.
7. Make a point of experiencing the sacrament of reconciliation at the beginning and end of Lent at minimum.
8. Tell someone you're praying for them.
9. Don't tell someone you're praying for them and pray for them.
10. Give up meat on Fridays but don't substitute lobster - make fasting something that is truly sacrificial.
11. Keep track of your television and online habits - devote at least as much time to prayer or service.
12. Rumours, gossip, negative chatter that devalues others ends at your doorstep.
13. Begin and end each week with an email thanking someone for all that they do.
14. Be sure to say grace at any restaurant you frequent (don't dodge making the Sign of the Cross either)
15. Buy a coffee for someone living on the street but not until you learn their name and something about them.
16. Pray before the Blessed Sacrament.
17. Reconcile with someone you've hurt or aren't speaking to.
18. Invite someone who's been away from the church to attend mass with you.
19. Write a letter to a political leader on an issue you're passionate about.
20. Donate to charity - make a sacrificial gift not what's "left over" (remember the ShareLife campaign is underway).
21. Attend a lecture or public discussion centred on faith issues.
22. Thank a bishop, priest or member of a religious congregation for their public witness - invite them out for coffee or a meal.
23. Participate in the 40 Days for Life or other pro-life initiative.
24. Learn about the lives of the saints especially your parish saint.
25. Visit someone who's alone.
26. Consider a new liturgical experience - attend mass in the extraordinary form, an eastern rite service, etc.
27. Wash someone's feet - literally.
28. Pray the Stations of the Cross.
29. Find something you admire in someone you dislike.
30. Send a note of encouragement to someone who is participating in the RCIA program.
31. Get involved in Refugee Sponsorship at your local parish or contact the Office for Refugees to offer assistance.
32. At your parish Good Friday service, cram 3 more people than is comfortable in your pew to give them a spot to sit. Better yet give up your seat for them.
33. Attend Lectio Divina.
34. Make time for family activities that are faith related.
35. Express your appreciation to someone in your parish who goes the extra mile - a lector, usher, pastoral associate, etc.
36. Journal about your spiritual highs/lows.
37. Pray for vocations.
38. Make a playlist of spiritual music that you enjoy and share it with a friend.
39. Embrace periods of silence in each day.
40. Invite someone you know will be alone to your home for Easter Sunday dinner.

So there's a few ideas to get the creative juices flowing. Lent - it's here, it's on. Let's raise the bar this time around. Just maybe some of these new habits will last beyond these 40 days. So let's get to it...

Mar 4, 2011

N.Y. Archbishop on Unpleasant Truths...

A blog entry worth revisiting this week comes to us from New York Archbishop, Timothy Dolan, who penned a missive about the local situation in his Archdiocese where a pro-life billboard was removed after just a few days on display. The image wasn't a graphic depiction of an abortion, rather, a simple photo of a young African American girl accompanied by a line that reads "The Most Dangerous Place for an African American Girl is in the Womb" (see pic below). The Archbishop presents some compelling reflections to digest.

In the context of our own pro-life activities, the beginning of Lent also marks the start of the ever expanding 40 Days for Life project, a focused effort that consists of prayer & fasting, peaceful vigil and community outreach. You can learn more about the event here.

Archbishop Dolan's blog entry appears below:

Unpleasant Truths

I’ve known for a long time that I should lose some weight. So, last week, I visited my doctor, and he showed me a gross, disgusting, dripping ball of yellow wax. “This,” he said to me, “is what ten pounds of fat looks like. This is what you’re carrying around in your body.” Was it upsetting? Unnerving? Sobering? You bet it was. It was also true, and it was effective, as it strengthened my resolve to get my weight under control.

Being confronted by the truth can often be unpleasant. That’s why those who fight so hard to eradicate world hunger will show us what hunger does, with a picture of a starving child, covered with flies and sores. Does it disturb us to face that truth, an image we’d rather not see or think about? It should, even as it spurs us to action.

It’s the same with smoking. I’m sure you’ve seen those television commercials that graphically portray the effects of smoking. It’s unpleasant to look at open heart surgery, or a pair of diseased lungs, or to see a person who has lost fingers, toes, or the esophagus, all due to smoking. The ads are nauseating, even hideous, to see. But the New York State Department of Health, among many others, sponsors these kinds of ads because they know that they can help to save lives.

Another ad has been generating some fierce reactions. Here in New York, a billboard was recently displayed, that simply stated “The most dangerous place for an African-American is in the womb.” This message was accompanied by a photograph of a young, African-American girl. Is that message unpleasant? Is it upsetting? Does it get our attention? Yes!

Because the message is somberly true. The City of New York’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene recently released its vital statistics from a year ago which showed that 59.8% of African-American pregnancies in New York City ended in abortion. That’s even higher than the chilling city-wide average of 41% of pregnancies ending in abortion. (
I joined other community leaders from a diversity of religious and ethnic backgrounds at a press conference sponsored by the Chiaroscuro Foundation about this a few weeks ago.)

So why has the billboard suddenly been taken down? What was it that moved
many of our elected officials to condemn this ad and call for the gag order. Are they claiming that free speech is a right enjoyed only by those who favor abortion or their pet causes? Do they believe that unpleasant and disturbing truths should not be spoken? Or are they afraid that when people are finally confronted with the reality of the horror of abortion, and with the toll that it is taking in our city, particularly in our African-American community, that they will be moved to defend innocent, unborn, human life?

Perhaps I’m more saddened by this intolerance right now because on Monday I will be celebrating the funeral mass for Doctor Bernard Nathanson, that giant of the pro-life movement, who died earlier this week. If you don’t know Dr. Nathanson’s story, you should. At one time, he fought hard to promote and expand abortion on demand in this state and in our country.

He was one of the founders of the National Abortion Rights Action League. He ran what he called the “largest abortion clinic in the Western world,” and bragged about personally performing thousands of abortions. But, when Dr. Nathanson was confronted with the undeniable truth, when he could see the unborn baby in the womb through the use of ultrasound technology, he abandoned his support for abortion and became a crusader for the protection of the life of the baby in the womb.

His courage and bravery should be an inspiration to us, especially when we have to face unpleasant and sobering truths.

Photo: Archdiocese of New York, New York Daily News

Mar 3, 2011

Here Come the Men in Black...

The first Tuesday in March brings with it an annual tradition in the Archdiocese of Toronto with this year's 21st Ordinandi Dinner bringing together the Class of 2011 from St. Augustine's Seminary. This year was no different with a record 1,886 people coming from throughout the Archdiocese and beyond to support our (God willing) soon to be diocesan priests in what has to be one of the largest faith dinners in the country.

An initiative of local Serra clubs and under the steady direction of original founder, Mario Biscardi, this year's dinner was the largest ever - trust me when I say there really was nary a seat to be had in the room March 1.

One of the great things about the annual Ordinandi Dinner is that it brings together a complete cross section of individuals from across the Archdiocese. Working the room, you'll come across clergy, women and men from religious communities, parishioners, students, teachers, business folks, retirees, essentially the body of Christ in our Archdiocese - heck in a room of 1,900 I even heard a baby cry out - now that's commitment!

The highlight of the evening each year is the chance to hear directly from our future priests as they share their own vocation story. It's a great opportunity for people to understand that the priests we see before us in ministry didn't necessarily feel the call from day one. This year's class include a number of converts to the faith as well as men who originally felt called to different vocations. From lawyers to accountants, mountain climbers to biochemists, engineering students to one studying Restoration Stone carving (yes, really), you can safely say that the backgrounds of these men are as diverse as the cultures and communities they represent.

10 graduates of the St. Augustine's Class of 2011, who range in age from 26-40, will be ordained to serve the diocesan priesthood in Toronto, Hamilton, Kingston, Peterborough, Ottawa, Calgary and Charlottetown. The theme of family rang throughout many of the presentations in touching and very personal ways. Prior to the dinner, the Class of 2011 had the chance to meet with hundreds of high school students in a private reception allowing for a personal exchange that may just be planting the seeds of future vocations in our country. You can see photos of the Class of 2011 along with brief bios here.

Just think, a Catholic function where you experience a reception, head table procession (with our own diocesan priest Fr. Phil Kennedy on bagpipes leading the charge), dinner, presentations and final goodbyes all done by 9:25 p.m. - heavenly. Walking away from it all you can't help but feel nourished physically and spiritually, inspired by the 10 men who will serve as shepherds of our faith throughout the country.

We continue to pray for the Class of 2011 and all those considering a religious vocation or currently in formation. Thanks to Serra Clubs throughout the Archdiocese for their extensive efforts in the area of vocations and to all who made the evening an inspiring one.

They say that March can come in like lion or a lamb but this March 1st, arrived like sheep, with 10 men preparing to feed their flock for years to come! Blessings to our newest shepherds!

Photos: Archdiocese of Toronto

Mar 1, 2011

Pope Benedict Appoints Toronto Auxiliary Bishop to Atlantic Canada


TORONTO (1 March 2011) - The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has appointed Bishop Peter Hundt, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Toronto as the new Bishop of Corner Brook and Labrador. Bishop Hundt has served as Auxiliary Bishop since April of 2006. He replaces Bishop Douglas Crosby who was appointed Bishop of Hamilton on September 24, 2010.

In a statement commenting on his appointment Bishop Hundt remarked: “I am honored to have been named the Ordinary of the Diocese of Corner Brook and Labrador by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. I will do my best to be worthy of this appointment and of the trust that has been placed in me.”

Archbishop Thomas Collins offered words of encouragement and gratitude to Bishop Hundt: “We congratulate Bishop Hundt on this important pastoral assignment which he has received from the Holy Father, confident that he will shepherd the people of the Diocese of Corner Brook and Labrador joyfully and faithfully. I join with our faith community in extending our prayers and best wishes, ever grateful for his tremendous contributions to the Archdiocese of Toronto."

Bishop Hundt was born in Hanover, Ontario on August 26, 1956. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from St. Jerome’s College, University of Waterloo and a Master of Divinity from St. Peter’s Seminary, University of Western Ontario in London. He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Hamilton in 1982. He served in parish ministry until 1985, at which time he undertook graduate studies in Canon Law at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. Returning to Hamilton in 1987 with a Licentiate Degree in Canon Law, he served as Vice-Chancellor of that Diocese until 1990 and then as Chancellor until 1994.

For the next 12 years he served as Pastor of the Parish of Holy Cross in Georgetown, Ontario. On February 11, 2006 Pope Benedict XVI appointed him an Auxiliary Bishop of Toronto. He was ordained to the Episcopacy on April 25, 2006. Since that time, Bishop Hundt has been serving as a Regional Bishop of the Archdiocese of Toronto and as the Archdiocesan Vicar for Religious. He has also held several positions within the Assembly of the Catholic Bishops of Ontario, most recently as the Chair of the Social Affairs Commission.

The Diocese of Corner Brook and Labrador comprises all of Labrador and the western part of the Island of Newfoundland. It has a Catholic population of 32,060 including 26 Diocesan Priests, 6 Religious Order Priests and 28 Women Religious. There are presently 64 parishes and missions in the Diocese.

Bishop Hundt's statement and other resources can be found here.