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Wednesday 30 April 2014

The Popes for Christian Unity

In a recent article Fr Dwight Longenecker has outlined some of the historical  events which have brought 1,000 Anglican priests along with thousands of laity into full communion with the Holy See since 1990.

To explain this development and the origin of the Ordinariates he highlights the efforts of popes from the time of Pius XII to ordain married men from the Lutheran and Anglican traditions.  

In his article: "Two Giant Popes, Two Small Steps Toward Unity"  Fr. Longnecker highlights the generosity of the popes over the past 70 years in the pursuit of true and viable Christian unity:

Pope Pius XII

On December 2, 1960 the Swiss guards at the Vatican were surprised to see an Anglican Archbishop striding up the stairs in a purple cassock and Canterbury cap. The energetic Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Fisher had come to see Pope John.

Pope St. John XXIII

It was the first time an Archbishop of Canterbury had paid a visit to the Vatican for six hundred years. Fisher had been on a trip to the Holy Lands, and on the way back to England had stopped in Istanbul to see the Ecumenical Patriarch. In June of 1960 Pope John XXIII had established a new Secretariat to promote Christian unity. Sensing a new spirit of ecumenism in the air, Archbishop Fisher was also determined to visit the Pope.

. . . . The pull quote from the visit was Pope John asking Archbishop Fisher when the Anglicans would return. Fisher replied, “It is not a question of returning, but going forward together.” The Pope insisted that the Archbishop meet with Cardinal Bea, the head of the new secretariat for church unity, and that meeting led eventually to the establishment of the ARCIC talks (ARCIC standing for Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission). The ARCIC talks have continued off and on for fifty years and have produced some substantial agreement in certain areas between Catholic and Anglican theologians.

Twenty years later another giant of a pope, John Paul II took another small, but significant step towards Christian unity. In 1978 a group of Episcopal [Anglican] priests in the United States petitioned Pope Paul VI for permission to be ordained as Catholic priests even though they were married. They knew this was a possibility because it had happened during the pontificate of Pius XII when a group of European Lutheran pastors had converted to the Catholic faith. They were granted dispensations from the vow of celibacy allowing their ordination as Catholic priests. The possibility was also mentioned in Paul VI’s encyclical Sacerdotalis Caelibatus.

Pope Paul VI as a young priest

At the death of Paul VI in August 1978, and following the month long pontificate of John Paul I, the pope from Poland took over. By 1980 the request of the Episcopal priests finally made it to the desk of the Holy Father. John Paul’s response was, “Be generous to these men.” Knowing the great sacrifices Anglican priests would make to enter full communion with the Catholic Church, Pope John Paul II asked for the Pastoral Provision to be established.

Pope St. John Paul II

Pope Benedict XVI

. . . . By the early 1990s this permission was extended to England and other parts of the English speaking world, and in 2009 Pope Benedict established the personal ordinariates for Anglicans. These are ecclesial structures which grant a broader permanent base for an Anglican style “church within a church”. Similar to Eastern rite churches, the churches of the ordinariate have their own liturgy and will often have married priests. Pope Francis expanded their vocation further by allowing members of the Ordinariate to welcome other Christians through evangelization and outreach.

Thus the seemingly small decisions of Pope John and Pope John Paul II have brought many former Anglicans and Episcopalians not only into full communion with the Catholic Church, but have also brought some of us into the ministry of the Catholic priesthood. Their decisions in this matter also illustrate the way the Catholic Church makes progress.

Pius XII’s decision to make an exception to the rule of celibacy and welcome a few Lutheran pastors combined with John XXIII’s decision to open a Secretariat for Christian Unity and to welcome a visit from Archbishop Fisher. Paul VI’s recognition that an exception to the rule of celibacy was possible opened the way for John Paul II to establish the Pastoral Provision. That in turn allowed Benedict XVI to expand the Pastoral Provision into the Anglican Ordinariate. It may be that Francis will expand the concept of the Ordinariate to include Lutherans, Methodists and other Christians from the Reformed tradition.”

On a personal note, it was Pope Francis I who signed my own dispensation for ordination in 2013.  So we see the hand of
Pope Francis I
continuity in the work of the Holy Father over 70 years, developing the avenue to unity and building the bridge to full communion with the Holy See of St. Peter. 

Fr. Dwight Longenecker is a former Anglican priest who was ordained in 2006 through the Pastoral Provision.

You can read Fr. L's  whole article at:   Fr. Longnecker's Blog

Monday 28 April 2014


Photo from the Choir Loft of the Easter Altar with decoration for Divine Mercy Sunday at STM, Toronto 
“Blessed are those who have not seen, yet have come to believe.”  John 20

Divine mercy speaks to us today in this season of the Resurrection of both the frailty of our humanity (our doubting and lack of faith) and the grace, the freely given love of God which we do not see but which we experience as we come to believe.

We saw the mercy and compassion of God in the raising of Lazarus yet there is a profound difference, between the raising of Lazarus from the dead (Gospel of John, chapter 11) and God the Father’s vindication of Jesus Christ in the Easter resurrection.

In the former situation Lazarus was truly dead — remaining in the tomb four days sealed that fact — and he was truly pulled from death, like a remnant lifted from amid the coals of a fire, and given a restored life. No one doubted that he was alive.

The Apostles saw the Lord in a new way as we hear in today’s Gospel. He stood in their midst, showed them his hands and sides. He was the same Jesus and yet different. They heard his blessing and received his commission to extend the Father’s mercy to all peoples by the power of the Holy Spirit that he conferred upon them. 

We must walk by faith and not by sight, we believe and love what we have not seen (see 2 Cor. 5:7). Yet the invisible realities are made present for us through the teaching and sacraments that the Apostles have handed on. 

Notice the experience by the Apostles of the risen Lord is described in a way that evokes the Mass.
Both appearances take place on a Sunday. The Lord comes to be with his disciples as they rejoice, listen to His Word, receive the gift of His forgiveness and peace. He then offers his wounded body to them in remembrance of His Passion. And they know and worship him as their Lord and their God.

Unlike Lazarus, Jesus emerged from his tomb, St. Paul tells us, never to die again: “death no longer has dominion over him” (Romans 6:9).  Both are part of God’s plan of divine mercy.

There is a qualitative difference here, between being raised from the dead by God’s mercy and entering the new life of resurrection by the greatest mercy. This is not just a difference of degree or intensity, between the raising of Lazarus and the rising of Jesus.  

Lazarus’ raising was a miracle, but it doesn’t solve the problem of death. Jesus’ rising is an apocalyptic action of God’s divine sovereignty and love, forever defeating death and ensuring its ultimate eradication.

Tom Wright (NT Wright – the NT scholar and bishop) has written a definitive historical defense of the empty tomb. He has also drawn attention to the fundamentally non-historical truth that the empty tomb points to.

The new life that Jesus now enjoys is, in Wright’s descriptive word, “transphysical”: it is real bodily life, but at the same time, it is unlike any bodily life we now know here.

As Luke Johnson, another N.T. scholar has put it, “The Christian claim concerning the resurrection of Jesus is not that he picked up his old manner of life, but rather that after his death he entered into an entirely new form of existence, one in which he shares the power of God and in which he could share that power with others.”

Today we celebrate the canonization of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II.  Tested by fire, their faith shines for all those who have not seen, yet believe. The Church proclaims by this act that they are in heaven with Christ and the saints sharing that new and different life of resurrection and sharing that power of God, sharing that merciful power with us through prayer and intercession.

This great and continuing stream of divine mercy is available to all of us on our journey through this life which will come to an end, while leading us, by God’s grace and mercy, into the life of resurrection, carrying our wounds as Jesus carried his.

Jesus’ risen body is the first instance of God’s renewal of all things. Thomas and the others were confused and unbelieving – little wonder. Jesus’ resurrection is the beginning and first example of the new creation. It is dissimilar to anything we’ve seen before. There is no analogy or pattern; it is a new mode of being under the mercy of God in Christ.

Seeing the first buds of flowers springing up around Easter time, we’re permitted, even encouraged, to consider those to be signs of resurrection. A dinner invitation from an old friend with whom we have a disagreement is a symbol of resurrection.

But we also have the constant testimony of the mercy of God in the lives of the saints, in their wounded and triumphant bodies. Their relics are embedded in the altars of churches everywhere and in reliquaries, proclaiming the resurrection of the body.
Reliquary with relics of St. Jean de Brébeuf and other saints beneath the statue of Our Lady at STM/Sacré-Coeur, Toronto
None of these things, of course, can simply be equated with the mercy of resurrection promised to us.  Some people say, echoing Thomas’ initial disbelief: “I believe in ‘resurrection,’ just not the Resurrection.”

We believe in the witness of the saints to the specific resurrection of the Body of Christ, and so we hope for our own resurrection through God’s divine mercy.           

“Blessed are those who have not seen, yet have come to believe.”

Acts 2:42-47

Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24

1 Peter 1:3-9

John 20:19-3

Saturday 26 April 2014

Pilgrimages . . . some to Rome, some to Santiago de Compostela and some to Québec . . .

Many will know or be friends with people in Rome this week for the canonization of Saints John XXIII and John Paul II.  

It is a pilgrimage filled with meaning and grace to be at St. Peter's Basilica and the other Roman churches, some of which are being kept open 24/7 to allow for the demand for Mass, prayer and Confession.

As well, some members of STM, Toronto are going on a pilgrimage this month through France to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain.  

This the famous Medieval pilgrimage route through Europe to the Shine of St. James upon which multiple millions have travelled over the past thousand years.

Square by Santiago de Compostela

Sanctuaire Notre-Dame-du-Cap, the Canadian national shrine of Our Lady

In July others of us will wend our way to Sanctuaire Notre-Dame-du-Cap, the Canadian national shrine of Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary, near Trois-Rivières. 

Then it is on to the basilica of Notre-Dame in Québec City where we will also honour and ask the prayers of the newest saints in North America: Saint François de Motmorency-Laval (First Bishop north of New Spain) and Saint Marie de L'Incarnation (Ursuline nun and educator of indigenous people) during the 350th Jubilee Year of the Church in Canada.  
Shrine Garden at Notre-Dame-du-cap 

See previous blogs or visit the following site which shows all of Quebec's National Shrines: 

Québec's National Shrines of Canada.

As mentioned previously this is a good summer for Canadians and Americans to show their support for the new federalist government in Québec by visiting the shrines in   Québec and praying for national unity.

Finally, in order to commend our pilgrim friends to God's mercy this Sunday. The following rite of blessing will be celebrated at the conclusion of Mass at STM this Divine Mercy Sunday followed by a pot-luck supper to wish them all the best on their travels.
You may want to gather a group for a pilgrimage this year and use this form of blessing to begin the journey.


Celebrant:       In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

ALL:                  AMEN.                   

 Celebrant:      May God, our strength and salvation, be with you all.

 ALL:                  And with thy spirit.

 Celebrant:      Brothers and sisters, as you set out, we remind ourselves of the reasons for the resolve to go on this holy pilgrimage. The Shrine of Santiago de Compostela is a monument to the devotion of the people of God. They have gone there in great numbers to be strengthened in the Christian way of life and to become more determined to devote themselves to the works of charity. You must also try to bring something to the faithful who live there: your example of faith, hope, and love. In this way both they and you will be enriched by the help you give each other.

 Brothers and sisters, listen to the words of the Second letter of Paul to the Corinthians We are away from the Lord. So we are always courageous, although we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yet we are courageous, and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord. Therefore, we aspire to please him, whether we are at home or away. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.       The Word of the Lord.

 R.        Lord, this is the people that longs to see Thy face. The earth is the Lord’s and all that therein is : the compass of the world, and they that dwell therein.  For he hath founded it upon the seas :  and prepared it upon the floods.  R. Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD : or who shall rise up in his holy place? Even he that hath clean hands, and a pure heart : and that hath not lift up his mind  unto vanity, nor sworn to deceive his neighbor.  R. He shall receive the blessing from the LORD : and righteousness reward from God of his salvation. This is the generation of them that seek him, even of them that seek thy face O Jacob.  R. 


With hands outstretched, the celebrant continues with the blessing.

All-powerful God, you always show mercy toward those who love you and are never far away for those who seek you. Remain with your servants on this holy pilgrimage and guide their way in accord with your will. Shelter them with your protection by day, give them the light of your grace by night, and, as their companion on the journey, bring them to their destination in safety.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  AMEN.

The Pilgrims are sprinkled with Holy Water.



May the Lord guide us and direct your journey in safety. AMEN.

May the Lord be your companion along the way.  AMEN.

May the Lord grant that the journey  which begins, relying upon Him, will end happily through his protection. AMEN.