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Thursday 30 January 2014

Heart speaks to heart.

John Henry Cardinal Newman's personal motto: Cor ad cor loquitur highlights the reality that by revelation the Heart of God speaks to our hearts. 

Jesus Christ, the eternal Word of God, speaks to us through his life, death, resurrection and ascension and in his presence with us by the grace of the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Blessed Sacrament.
St. Thomas More, the Ordinariate mission in Toronto, meets in Sacré-Coeur Church in the inner city. Like its namesake, Sacré-Coeur de Montmartre in Paris, the Toronto parish is surrounded by the hard scrabble of humanity in all its manifestations. There are those in apartments, seniors' residences and houses along with those living on the street and those seeking shelter. There are hard-working immigrant labourers, students and professionals, stay-at-home mothers and working women. There are people of virtually every race, religion and culture on the planet. 
Montmartre, Paris
The little church of Sacré-Coeur, Toronto offers Mass weekly in two languages, English and French. The magnificent church of Sacré-Coeur de Montmartre hosts pilgrims from all over the world and Mass is offered in the crypt by priests from dozens of nations in any language the pilgrims speak.
Interior of Sacré-Coeur de Montmartre

Taking the lead from the great white church on the hill in Montmartre, we in Toronto are planning to do something that has been happening continuously in Paris 24/7 since 1885 when the church was opened.  Since that day, not one minute has passed without someone kneeling in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament night and day.

In times of war and in times of peace, in all weather and in all seasons a few people or many hundreds, but always someone has been present to adore the sacramental presence of Christ exposed to view in the huge monstrance above the high altar of Sacré-Coeur de Montmartre in the great city of Paris.

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is a witness to the promise of Jesus that he would be with us always. In light of this, the people of St. Thomas More at Sacré-Coeur, Toronto are considering the ministry of silent adoration for the local community and the world.  

We are planning to begin on Wednesdays from 11 AM to 1 PM to place the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance on the altar so that all who come or pass by may pray or just be silent in the sacramental presence of our Lord in the heart of the city at the church named for the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Those of every language may come to pray and those who do not stop will know that they are being prayed for.  A priest will be present for those who wish to draw close to Jesus in the Sacrament of Penance.

Following is an English version of a prayer that is offered in Paris adapted for our use in Toronto and titled with the motto of one of our patrons, Blessed John Henry Newman, who had a particular devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and to our Lord present in the Blessed Sacrament.

Cor ad cor loquitur

O Eternal GOD, Our Lord
Jesus Christ wished to stay present
among us in Thy Holy Eucharist, the 
mystery of Thy love. We unite ourselves to 
all those who come to adore Thee in spirit 
and in truth; we offer our presence to Thy 
Presence. Allow us  to listen to Thee in 
silence. Reveal Thyself, we pray, in the 
secret place of our hearts. Help us to 
abandon ourselves to Thee. May 
the praise and supplication,
and the confident gift of
our lives rise up
from our

May Thy Sacred
Heart, the source of all
mercy, establish our hearts
in peace and inner joy. By the
grace of Thy Holy Spirit,
strengthen our faith,
renew our love,
and sustain
our hope. 


Tuesday 28 January 2014

St. Thomas Aquinas, The Friend of Faith, Reason and Real Science

Fr. Robert Barron gives a fine summary of the valuable contribution of St. Thomas Aquinas to a real understanding of the evidence of science as it is harmonized with faith.  In his article America Needs You, Thomas Aquinas, Fr. Barron outlines how Aquinas teaches us three important things about reality:

First, Thomas Aquinas saw with utter clarity that since all truth comes from God, there can never be, finally, any conflict between the data of the sciences and the facts of revelation. 

In his own time, there were advocates of the so-called “double truth theory,” which held that the “truths” of philosophy and science were in one category and the “truths” of the faith in another. On this interpretation, one could hold mutually exclusive positions as long as one remained cognizant that the opposing views were in separate departments of the mind. 

Well, Thomas saw this as so much nonsense and said so. Apparent conflicts between science and religion (to use our terms) are born of either bad science or bad religion, and they should compel the puzzled thinker to dig deeper and think harder. Following Augustine, Thomas said that if an interpretation of the Bible runs counter to clearly established findings of the sciences, we should move to a more mystical and symbolic reading of the Scriptural passage. 

How important this is today when forms of fundamentalism have given rise to a terrible rationalist counter-reaction. Biblical literalism—a modernism, alien to the patristic and medieval minds—produces a variety of views repugnant to physics, evolutionary biology, cosmology, etc. And this has led to the sequestration of some religious types and some scientific types into separate and mutually hostile camps. 

Thomas Aquinas would see how foolish and counter-productive this is for both science and religion. The faith, he claimed, should always go out to meet the culture with confidence, and the culture should see its own deepest aspirations realized in the faith. 

Secondly, Thomas knew that the Creator God of the Bible is the only finally satisfying explanation for the existence of the contingent things of the world. He was deeply impressed by the actual existence of those things that do not contain within themselves the reason for their being. 

Clouds, trees, plants, animals, human beings, buildings, planets, and stars certainly exist, but they don’t have to exist. This means, he saw, that their being is not self-explanatory, that it depends, finally, on some primordial reality which does exist through the power of its own essence. This “necessary” being is what Thomas called “God.” 

He was moved by the correspondence between this philosophical sense of God and the self-designation that God gives in Exodus 3:14: “I am who I am.” How significant this is in our time when “new” atheists have raised their voices to dismiss belief in God as a holdover from a pre-scientific time. 

Thomas would remind the Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins of the world that no scientific advance could ever, even in principle, eliminate the properly metaphysical question to which God is the only satisfying answer. God is not a superstitious projection of human need; rather, God is the reason why there is something rather than nothing.

Thirdly, Thomas Aquinas was a deep humanist, precisely because he was a Christian. He saw that since God became human in Christ, the destiny of the human being is divinization, participation in the inner life of God. No other religion or philosophy or social theory has ever held out so exalted a sense of human dignity and purpose. And this is why, Aquinas intuited, there is something inviolable about the human person. How indispensably important that teaching is in our era of stem-cell research, euthanasia, legalized abortion, and pre-emptive war, practices that turn persons into means.

Yes, faith needs reason and religion needs science, but the reverse is equally true as illustrated so luminously by Aquinas.

St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us.

Sunday 26 January 2014

Converts and Cradle Catholics - G.K. Chesterton, Tim Conway, Fr. Cleevely, Ian Hunter

In the upcoming Chesterton Debate in Toronto (Feb. 7), Fr. Philip Cleevely (a Catholic convert from Anglicanism) is facing a noted Canadian atheist, Justin Trottier.

"Is there a God" will be debated in a series named for a former atheist who became an Anglican Christian apologist and was ultimately received into the full communion of the Catholic Church.

G.K. Chesterton is one of the most famous Catholic converts of the 20th century. He had a rapier mind and a sharp logic which he applied to both his public speaking and to his writing. His apologetics and his fiction are at once clear, persuasive and humorous.

Converts come in all shapes and sizes. A recent interview with the beloved comedian Tim Conway pointed out the source of his family-oriented humour - his Catholic faith -  to which he converted as a young man and never forsook.

A noted Canadian professor and journalist has written eloquently of his journey from evangelical Christianity to the Catholic Church via Anglicanism. Ian Hunter was a young lecturer at Carleton University in Ottawa when I first met him in the early 1970s. After a distinguished career as a professor of Law, Ian now focuses much of his writing on issues of faith and we are all the better for it.

So-called "Cradle Catholics" often wonder about the Ordinariate as they do about the Eastern Catholic Churches in communion with Rome, if they are even aware of them. The liturgy is different, there are married priests, etc.  Some even imply that we are not "fully" Catholic or advise other Catholics that Ordinariate Masses are only for Protestants and others who are not "real" Catholics.

There is only one class of Catholic, and we all belong to it. Every Ordinariate Mass is open to any Catholic who wants to come as it is to any Anglican, Lutheran, Evangelical, agnostic or atheist who is seeking something deeper. Yes, formal registration with the Ordinariate is first of all for those not previously confirmed in the Catholic Church and those not registered as confirmed in a parish. However, you may have been baptized, or not, in any church, Catholic or not, and are welcome to apply. In fact, anyone who is married or in any way related to a member of the Ordinariate can also be registered. Registered or not, everyone is welcome to come to Mass or Confession as  everyone is certainly welcome to worship in whatever Catholic Church they wish.

In the tradition of Chesterton, Catholics of all backgrounds have something to share in the New Evangelization. In the  Personal Ordinariates we have been given the mandate to welcome all Catholics to communion at our Masses but especially to reach out to non-Catholics and to baptized but unconfirmed Catholics. This is a big field of work and so we need people like Fr. Cleevely and Prof. Ian Hunter along with the writings of G.K. Chesterton and the quiet witness of everyday Catholics like Tim Conway - we need a sense of humour too.

Come aboard, the view is fine from this side of the Tiber; and the company is great!

Monday 20 January 2014

Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity

Homily for the Second Sunday after Epiphany,
Jan. 19, 2014 –  STM – Toronto
The Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity

“to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours . . .”

These are the words of St. Paul to the Corinthians in the First Evangelization, the first calling of people into fellowship and communion with Jesus Christ.
Ceiling mosaic Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta, Italy - Artist unknown

Paul echoes the words and actions of St. John the Baptist whom we hear today in the Gospel:  
“Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world.”
At every Mass we see and hear Jesus, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. It is our mandate as Catholic Christians to echo the words and the actions of St. John the Baptist by constantly reaching out to people, by helping  them to see, to behold, Jesus in our midst giving his life for the life of the world. 

Jesus is present, truly present: body, blood, soul and divinity at the altar and in communion with his people. He is the one sinless Lamb to whom we are called as incomplete and sinful as we are. 

We are called to declare Jesus. With St Paul we declare to the world that Jesus is our living and truly present Saviour.  Jesus is, as St. Paul contends:  “both their Lord and ours.”  He is their Lord even if they do not recognize Him or are not yet in full communion with his Church.

We should never weary of declaring the one Lord Jesus in our words but perhaps more profoundly in our actions at home, at work, at play, declaring to other Christians, to Catholics and Protestants, to the agnostic and to the unbeliever, to those who are sympathetic and to those who are hostile: Jesus is Lord.

Jesus is the one true Lamb who sacrifices himself for us, for every one of us, in His one, full, complete and final sacrifice of the Cross, His sacrifice which is always accessible, always present and available at every Mass. He is the Saviour who calls us to share His sacrifice and to enter fully into His sacrifice for others, by serving “their Lord and ours” for the sake of the whole world.

If we were to follow on from the reading today in St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians we would read these words which speak directly to us about the main theme for this octave which is The Week or Octave of Prayer for Christian unity:

Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.”

The same mind and the same purpose point everyone to Jesus, the Lamb of God. The purpose is for us and others to walk in fellowship with Jesus, sharing in his life. The goal is for all Christians to ultimately be if of one mind in full communion sharing in the real presence of Jesus at the altar.

This passage from First Corinthians 1 calls Christians around the world to reflect upon the call to real and substantial unity in the Body of Christ. It is a call to be of one mind and committed to one common purpose.

The Ordinariates around the world are a sign, a kind of first fruits of this unity as described by our Ordinary, Msgr. Steenson recently.

Those coming into the full communion of the Catholic Church as well as people of good will who are praying and working for true unity were encouraged by the words of Msgr. Steenson at the Dec. 14 celebration of priestly ordination in Ottawa.

As leader of the Ordinariate in North America in interviews Msgr. Steenson has repeatedly emphasized that we must allow ourselves to be a bridge to Christian unity and a force for true ecumenism rather than just a lifeboat for those who are surviving the shipwreck of secularism and relativism that is decimating mainline Protestantism.

He has said:

“If the Ordinariate is to be anything worthy and worth keeping for the long term, it must be an instrument of Christian unity”

“Ecumenism has been hurt because neither side has really been telling the truth to each other, or it’s the elephant in the living room they don’t want to talk about . . . . It’s important for Anglicans to understand there are certain things they have embraced in their common life that are simply forever irreconcilable with the Catholic faith.”

As our Ordinary, he went on to echo the call of both Pope Benedict and Pope Francis for a New Evangelization: 

“We need to strengthen . . .  parishes and make them attractive places that will function for the purpose they were created, to bring people into full communion.”

So, we are called to share the Good News of Jesus Christ as St. John the Baptist calls all of us to behold Jesus, the Lamb of God and as St. Paul exhorts all to unity:

“to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours . . .”

Fr. John L. Hodgins, POCSP
St. Thomas More Catholic Church,

Toronto, Ontario, CANADA

Tuesday 14 January 2014

The Baptism of the Lord

Homily at STM, Toronto - January 12, 2013

“it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness”

This phrase from today’s Gospel challenges us to see how the Baptism of Jesus was necessary since he was sinless and John the Baptist was preaching repentance and baptism for the remission of sin.

Contemplating the Baptism of the Lord “to fulfill all righteousness”, Lancelot Andrewes (1555 –1626) the 16th century English bishop and scholar, said this, speaking of our Lord:

“And so He was baptized. And he had a threefold immersion: one in Gethsemane, one in Gabbatha and a third in Golgotha. In Gethsemane in his sweat of blood.  In Gabbatah, in the blood that came from the scourges and thorns; and in Golgotha, that which came from the nails and the spear.”
The tomb of Lancelot Andrewes at Southwark Cathedral. He helped translate the KJV bible.
Bishop Andrewes parallels the Baptism of Jesus, which was not required for his own sins because he was God Incarnate, parallels Jesus Baptism with our own Baptism into the Name (and so into the life) of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus’ Baptism was into suffering and death.

The bishop goes on to explain why Jesus was baptized for our own sakes, not for his. Baptism was part of his kenosis which is the term that sacred Scripture uses to describe how Jesus poured himself out to the last measure by immersing Himself in our frail, broken, sinful human life in order that we might be filled with the water of divine mercy and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

At Golgotha, says Andrewes, quoting the Gospel of John chapter 19:

“met the two streams of ‘water and blood’, the true Jordan . . . wherein we are ‘purged from our sins’ (John 1:7) . . . . and in virtue of that, doth all water-baptism work. And therefore are we baptized into it: not into [Jesus’] water-baptism but into his cross-baptism; not into his baptism but into his death.”

By emptying Himself for us, so that we might enter his death, God  also raises us by grace through Jesus' own rising. We rise with Jesus into his kingdom, a kingdom which is entered by the gate of His Baptism, a baptism into his ministry, suffering , death, resurrection and ascension. 

Jesus has opened the way for us to be raised from the waters of chaos to the “fulfilling of all righteousness” not by our own unaided efforts but by his grace and mercy, poured out upon us.

There is a scene in the 2010 film, The Way Back, based on the true story of a band of escapees from a Soviet prison in Siberia who made it through the Siberian wilderness and then the Gobi Desert and finally across the Himalayas to freedom in Nepal. This was an astounding feat.

The scene that I mentioned depicts the men finding water after days in the desert and the last days with no water. They immerse themselves in the water. The long scene shows the grateful men pouring water on their heads as though they were pouring life into their bodies.

It is a powerful scene of survival but also one of transformation. Their palpable gratitude for this grace of life found in the water is overwhelming and speaks of the spiritual transformation that is assured to us in the promised grace of regeneration through Holy Baptism.

Bishop Andrewes again:

“There is so, in baptism, besides the hand seen that casts on water, the virtue of the Holy Ghost is there, working ‘without hands’ what here was wrought.”

He goes on:
“And for this Christ prays; that . . . it might [be] . . . and might ever, be joined to that [baptism] of the water . . . .  That what in His [baptism] here was, in all theirs might be; what in this first, in all following, what in Christ’s, in all Christians’.  Heaven might open, the Holy Ghost comes down, the Father be pleased to say over the same, so oft as any [Christian’s] child is brought to [Jesus’ own] baptism.

. . . . in Christ , regenerate and translated into [what St. Paul’s in his Letter to the Romans calls] the state of ‘grace wherein we stand.’

And not only a great change, but a great rise also.  At the first, we were but washed from our sins, [that] was all; but here, from baptized sinner to an accepted son is a great ascent.

And finally this:
“[Christ] came not down so low, but we go up as high for it.”
. . . . and this he brings us to before he leaves.”

“it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness” . . . by the grace and mercy of God.