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Wednesday 31 December 2014

Our mother, Mary, a young Jewish woman

As we celebrate a young Jewish woman as the Mother of God,  Fr. Hunwicke calls us to turn again to the writings of Pope Benedict XVI and to consider the Jewish origins of faith.

When questioned about attitudes towards our Jewish brothers and sisters, I am inclined to say, "Love Jews, I worship one."

Fr. H . . .

Jesus is Temple, Jesus is Torah (1)

During these months of preparation for Son Of Synod this autumn, it seems to me that our essential Jewishness is something which we must constantly bear in mind. And this was emphasised most brilliantly in the first published volume of Jesus of Nazareth by our Holy Father Benedict XVI. If, after your initial enthusiastic perusal of its pages, it has more recently been rather gathering dust on your shelves, I beseech you to get it up and running again. Indeed, if there were no Synod threatening us at all, I would still urge you to turn to the very fine section (I shall return to it in the second part of this piece) where Joseph Ratzinger deals with the Sermon on the Mount; and does so by engaging with one of the most distinguished historians of Jewish thought in the world today, Rabbi Jacob Neusner.

In Northern Ireland they are convinced, not only that the dogs in the streets are either Catholic or Protestant dogs, but that the very atheists are either Catholic of Protestant atheists. They mean, of course, very intelligently, that a man may claim to be an atheist, but that his mindset, the matrix especially of of his antipathies, may have been formed by a cultural background which is differently doctrinaire from his current position of dogmatic atheism. English atheists, for example, often have minds befuddled by a world view which is little other than the old, ranting, Fox's-Martyrs-in-a-sauce-of-Charles-Kingsley-with-a-dash-of-Kensit Protestantism, all in the reassuring clothing of a friendly atheistical sheep.

Jewish scholars who venture into 'Christian Origins' tend very often, I fear, to be Liberal Protestants in sheep's clothing. That is what makes Neusner so exhilarating to read. He does not have that sort of crypto-Protestant agenda. Let me start with one example: the old Liberal Protestant superstition, such a comfort to the anti-Catholic mind, was that the Eucharist started as a simple fellowship meal which, probably under the influence of Hellenistic Mystery cults, was perverted into the Catholic Mass. 
El Greco

Neusner, on the other hand, is free to follow the obvious track which leads from the 'Cleansing of the Temple' (in which Christ emptied the Temple of those who, by changing money or supplying certified animals, enabled the Temple cult to happen) to the conclusion, documented from his profound knowledge of first century Judaism, that Jesus of Nazareth saw himself as abolishing that sacrificial cult on the Temple Mount because of His intention, on Maundy Thursday, to erect in its place the new sacrificial system of His Eucharistic self-oblation in His Body and Blood.

This series continues at: Fr Hunwicke's blog

Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God.

On this Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God we continue to pray at St. Thomas More for all those in hospital at the new year and for those receiving treatment or recovering at home. We pray also for those who are displaced and for those who are persecuted for their Christian faith around the world.

 In particular we continue to pray for Helen, Fr. Jim,  Guillermo, Miguel, the Christians of Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Turkey and many other parts of the world. For all refugees and those who suffer persecution.

Mary, most holy Mother of God, as we begin the new year, keep us in thy love and mercy, restore us to our friends and loved ones and keep us in peace.   AMEN.

Monday 29 December 2014

Pope Francis - Quotations from an address on the Family - HOLY FAMILY SUNDAY, STM TORONTO


“The crisis in the family has produced an ecological crisis, for social environments, like natural environments, need protection. And although the human race has come to understand the need to address conditions that menace our natural environments, we have been slower to recognize that our fragile social environments are under threat as well, slower in our culture, and also in the Catholic Church. It is therefore essential that we foster a new human ecology.”

“It is necessary first to promote the fundamental pillars that govern a nation: its non-material goods.  The family is the foundation of co-existence and a remedy against social fragmentation.  Children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity.

The Holy Father goes on to say: “That is why I stressed in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium that the contribution of marriage to society is “indispensable”; that it “transcends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple.” (n. 66)

The Church affirms that at the heart of the family is the beauty of complementarity between man and woman in marriage.  This is not a cultural or social construct but is foundational to human flourishing.

Pope Francis again: “Do not fall into the trap of being swayed by political notions. Family is an anthropological fact – a socially and culturally related fact. We cannot qualify it based on ideological notions or concepts important only at one time in history. We can’t think of conservative or progressive notions. Family is a family.”

Pope Francis:  “I urge you to lift up yet another truth about marriage: that permanent commitment to solidarity, fidelity and fruitful love responds to the deepest longings of the human heart.  I urge you to bear in mind especially the young people, who represent our future. Commit yourselves, so that our youth do not give themselves over to the poisonous environment of the temporary, but rather be revolutionaries with the courage to seek true and lasting love, going against the common pattern.”

English language translation of Pope Francis' Italian address, delivered on November 17, 2014 in the Vatican Synod Hall, at the Colloquium on the complementarity of Man and Woman.


Saturday 27 December 2014

Mystic Nativity


Holy Family Sunday – Sung Mass
 Dec. 28  -  1:45 p.m.
MUSIC: Byrd: Mass for Four Voices,
O Magnum Mysterium

Mary, Mother of God – Vigil Mass
Wednesday, Dec. 31  -  5:00 p.m.
MUSIC: Victoria, Missa Dixit Maria;
Byrd, Beata Virgo

Mystic Nativity by Botticelli

Our thanks to Peter Mahon and the Parish Choir for their outstanding efforts this Christmas season. They have truly assisted us in the praise of our incarnate Lord and inspired us in the service of God and our brothers and sisters.  Many thanks all.

A Letter from Miguel

During Advent some of us entered into an agreement to pray the Novena of Our Lady Undoer of Knots.

In my work as a hospital chaplain I have gotten to know a boy who is very prayerful though suffering from cancer. For the sake of his privacy we will call him Guillermo.  

At the same time a number of us have been working to bring back to Canada a man who was refused asylum here and had to return to Mexico to reapply. That was two and a half years ago.
". . . the laws delay"  as Shakespeare numbered it amongst the trials of this world. 

We have been praying for both Miguel and Guillermo and ask people to continue to share in the Novena or rosary for their intentions/

Following is a letter sent by Miguel:

Good morning Father John, of course I would be honoured to be a partner in prayer with Guillermo. Once again, a sign that the thought of one's problems are too big are wrong or unfair, there is always someone who lives more difficult and complex situations. Please, Father John, I
appreciate that you give him the following message:

Hi Guillermo, as Father John told you, my name is Miguel and with all due respect, I write the following for you:

There are people in the world that we have never met and may never crossed our paths. But we are indisputably connected by the same humanitarian sentiment, by ties of honour, by ties of righteousness, goodness ties, by ties of love. 

Therefore you should never feel lonely or sad; God has plans for each of us, but sometimes we can not understand or think that they are insignificant, I think that all these projects are chained, are intertwined, for the same and big goal. Only God knows the way each of us and only he knows and decides our today and our tomorrow. 

You must have a lot of faith, because miracles exist and are in the hands of God. With all our heart, my wife Guadalupe  and I, pray to God and the Virgin of Guadalupe for you and your family. This Friday you, my wife and I and all the people who love you, be united in prayer. 

Give a hug to your parents and let them know that we share their feelings, but also share their faith and hope.

God bless you Guillermo.




Christmas Offerings at STM Toronto

Your offerings at St. Thomas More (STM) support the ministry of Christian Unity, which is at the heart of the mandate of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter (POCSP) as part of the Church’s New Evangelization worldwide.
In 2014 STM was able to continue our commitment to offering the highest level of liturgical music in Toronto from the Anglican and Catholic patrimony.  STM offers weekly Sunday Sung Mass at 1:45 pm and on some Solemnities and days of obligation.  By God’s grace, STM made a modest beginning with BALDWIN ACADEMY, an educational ministry for home-schooling students where qualified teachers focus on tutoring and supplementing home education curricula.  Homeschoolers and other children learn choral music with our children’s choir, ST. THOMAS MORE CHORISTERS, directed by Katharine Pimenoff Mahon. More details about times and locations early in the new year.
In 2015 we hope to maintain and extend the musical and educational ministry of STM with continued focus on patrimonial music and Christian Education in a Catholic context.  Your prayers and financial support are greatly valued as our congregation enters its third year, now as a quasi parish of the POCSP. Ten per cent of offerings go towards supporting the mission and outreach of the POCSP in North America.

Next Sunday, Jan 4 – STM welcomes Fr. Derek Cross, as celebrant and preacher.

Monday 22 December 2014

Msgr Steenson's writes . . .

Ordinary's Christmas Letter 2014 

Dear People of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter,
In Rome on Christmas Day, 1852, Pope Pius IX received into the Catholic Church Dr. Levi Silliman Ives, the second Episcopal Bishop of North Carolina.  It is a fascinating, little-known story about a courageous soul involved in the Oxford Movement that re-introduced Catholic teaching to Anglican life.

Blessed John Henry Newman was the progenitor of the movement, which was perhaps to have its greatest impact on these shores.  Ives’ theological formation came as this Catholic movement began to influence a new generation of Anglican clergy and laity.  In 1822 he married the daughter of Bishop Hobart of New York; the father must have been pleased, since he ordained him the next year.  In 1831, at the age of 33, he was elected Bishop of North Carolina.

His episcopal career was a difficult one.  The diocese did not welcome his high church ways.  A diocesan commission took up charges that he was teaching confession, transubstantiation, reservation of the Blessed Sacrament, devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the need for Anglicanism to be reunited to the Catholic Church.  Bishop Ives was forced to backtrack and assure the diocese that he was unreservedly Anglican.

But it didn’t work.  One’s conscience cannot survive such convolutions, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience” (¶1790).  In 1852, the bishop asked the standing committee for a sabbatical, for health reasons, and journeyed to Rome.  Perhaps we in the Ordinariate have some sense of his struggles and the relief that came when the decision was finally made.  Three days before the Pope received him, he wrote to his diocese to resign his office so that he might obey his conscience, informed by “clear and settled convictions,” and make his submission to the Catholic Church.  He would later write a moving account of his journey, Trials of a Mind in its Progress to Catholicism: A Letter to His Old Friends(1854).

The response from his old friends was not so gracious.  To leave the Episcopal Church back then was regarded as an act of apostasy.  Such converts (turning around) were then called perverts (turning in a bad way).  He was said to be suffering from a form of mental illness: “the bishop had been in a state of mental illness that impaired his judgment.” Thankfully today we are in a (mostly) different place!

Dr. Ives returned to America to teach at an institution that would later become part of Fordham University.  He and his wife had found the peace and joy that full communion brings.  These courageous pioneering souls laid the foundations for the ecumenical progress that would one day come in Anglican-Roman Catholic relationships.  They were the “first fruits” of the work of Christian unity, the legacy that now falls on us to continue.

“This is a strange Christmas letter,” you may be saying.  But his Christmas reception would not be coincidental.  Dr. Ives would find his life’s work in the founding of the Catholic Protectory in the Bronx, the largest Catholic orphanage of its day.  Just as St. Joseph, he would find his vocation in the nurture and care of God’s little children.  In 1867, Dr. Ives died with these words on his lips: “Oh, how good God has been to me!”  He was buried at the Protectory, today St. Raymond’s Cemetery, a wonderful witness to the social and doctrinal integrity of Catholic life.

The Son of God came to share not only his Father’s mind but also his heart.  Dr. Ives’ journey to full communion began as deep theological engagement, but his act of conscience would become a life of service.  And this is how he would be remembered, his work inspiring the foundation of many such orphanages throughout the Catholic Church in America.

Pope Francis spoke in this way of St. Joseph on his feast day this year:  “How does Joseph respond to his calling to be the protector of Mary, Jesus and the Church?  By being constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence and receptive to God’s plans, and not simply to his own.”

May God bless you with a joyous and holy Christmas!

Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson

P.S.  Full credit to Prof. William Tighe of Muhlenberg College, who introduced me to Ives’ inspiring story at the time of my conversion. 

Tuesday 16 December 2014

Robert Baldwin - The Great Reformer - A forerunner of the Ordinariate?

Could we say that Robert Baldwin, the nineteenth century architect of the union between colonies in British North American in what was to becmme the united Province of Canada, was a forerunner of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter?
Portrait of the Hon. Robert Baldwin, the Reformer,
a 1st Co-Premier of the united Province of Canada

Were Baldwin's religious views such that he was moving towards unity in religious matters as well as political? 

These intriguing questions have their roots in the life of the Honourable Robert Baldwin (1804 - 1858). Born in Toronto (York) he was a contemporary of John Henry Newman and was, by his own admission, a high church Anglican who was conversant with the ideas of the Oxford Movement as they became known in the British colonies.

Certainly Robert Baldwin, was a lifelong Anglican (technically a member of what was known as the Church of England in Canada at the time). His family had emigrated to North American in 1799 when his father, William Warren Baldwin and grandfather, known as Robert the Emigrant, left County Cork in Ireland.  

The Baldwin family  had long experience co-operating with Catholics in the politics of Ireland. In fact, it was this experience of the Baldwins, many of whom were lawyers and involved in the administration of the Ireland, which moved them to promote what they termed "Responsible Government" i.e. government that was responsible to and/or elected by the population that it served. In the case of Ireland, the vast majority of these folk were Catholics.

The idea of Responsible Government was not pure democracy (if there is such a thing) but it did give the franchise initially to men who owned property and had a material stake in the welfare of their community.  

The closure of the Irish Parliament and the concentration of power at Westminster in England at the close of the 18th Century was the last straw for Robert's grandfather, Robert the Emigrant.  He picked up with his son William Warren Baldwin (The Reformer's father)  and made for Upper Canada (later to become Ontario).  There they hoped to work in the new world for Responsible Government still loyal to the British Crown.

Statue on Parliament Hill, Ottawa:
Robert Baldwin and Louis Lafontaine,
Co-premiers of the Province of Canada 1843 - 1848

Long an opponent of aggressive Protestantism, Baldwin's Secret Societies Bill, sought to outlaw the Orange Order and its political violence. His alliance with Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine was more than simply political. They were close friends and because Baldwin did not speak French, he saw to it that his children were all educated in French in Québec. His daughter Marie was reconciled to the Catholic Church following her education at the Ursuline Convent in Québec. She did not marry and nursed Baldwin in his final illness until his death.

Robert Baldwin had become, he told John Ross in December 1853, “rather a High Churchman as I understand the distinction between High and Low Churchman, though I trust without bigotry or intolerance.” (Dictionary of Canadian Biography). His concern was with maintaining the traditional internal government of the church and his insistence on the separation of the Church from the power of the state was, he had argued, necessary to prevent the Church from becoming a political football. 

He did not approve of any democratization of the Church in line with the what the Oxford Movement held: The Church must be governed according to her own apostolic principles and governance. He advocated for the right to Catholic Education against Protestant prejudice and the Orange Order. 

Baldwin worked with both high and low churchmen as president of the Upper Canada Bible Society until 1856.  
Statue of Robert Baldwin
outside the Legislature in 
Québec City.

All of this and much more Baldwin and his colleagues accomplished with virtually no bloodshed, unlike the what was the case in the  American, French and other republican revolutions. Truly Baldwin was a man committed to unity based upon tradition.  He affirmed the role of the Crown as well as the church as arbiters of continuity. 

We can argue that Baldwin would see the Ordinariate and its witness to unity as a development which he and Newman could support.  Never afraid  to do the principled thing, Baldwin was a great ally of the Catholic Church and of the unity to which she calls us.