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Tuesday 22 September 2015

THERE WILL BE NO MARRIAGE IN HEAVEN - Augustinian Thoughts on Procreation and Same-Sex Partnerships

An interesting reflection on the nature of sacramental marriage by Dr. David Widdecombe:

For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.

If there will be no marriage in heaven, then, if we knew more specifically what Jesus thought there would not be, we would know more specifically what marriage was. What do humans do that angels do not do? Or, more provocatively, what do heterosexuals do that angels do not do and what does it mean that they will one day do it no longer. 
According to St. Augustine, they will no longer procreate, although they will still have sexually differentiated bodies. This answer has several possible implications, among them the fact that procreative marriage grounded in creation has less and eschatologically grounded non-procreative sexual partnerships might have more significance after Christ than before. They are two overlapping but separate and non-identical vocations. The purpose of this paper is to explore what theological grounds there might be for such a view within Augustine's doctrine of marriage.

Before turning to his description of the goods of marriage, we should note that prior to Augustine there does not appear to have been anything like the consensus concerning the nature or spiritual value of material, non- angelic reality that there was after his time, largely on account of the widely accepted authority of his writings in the following centuries. We should briefly explore this issue since it relates to the possibility that we are now witnessing a return to an incipient Gnosticism or premature heavenly spiritualism in modern conceptions of the nuptial mystery in an otherwise estimable, though problematic, attempt to find an equality of status for same-sex partnerships.

Before Augustine there was a tendency, not shared by all early theologians but widespread enough to be a matter of concern, among Gnostics and Catholics alike to repudiate Judaism, in the one case denying the authority of the Hebrew Bible and in the other allegorizing away its material fleshly meaning. But, radicalizing the celebration of material bodily existence to be found in Justin Martyr and Tertullian, Augustine definitively expressed the ongoing historical and theologically positive role of the Jews as the incarnate fleshly people of God, as, in the words of Paula Fredriksen, 'God-given, as God-protected, and as good for the church' (Augustine and the Jews: A Christian Defense of Jews and Judaism, 339). He underscored both the traditional, carnal Judaism of Jesus and his apostles and the continuity of Catholic sacraments with the body-oriented rites of the Old Testament. 
For Augustine an anti-docetic doctrine of incarnation and resurrection secundum carnem, according to the flesh, was related to a positive valuation of all things Jewish, including biological materiality, festivals of meat and drink, circumcision, sexual differentiation, procreation, and so forth. These basic Old Testament affirmations required him to de- materialize evil, locating it in the will rather than in the body. 'The cause of our being pressed down is not the nature and substance of the body' and consequently 'the procreation of children pertains to the glory of marriage, not to the punishment of sin' (The City of God, 14/3, 14/21).

Turning to marriage, this anti-Gnostic reluctance to embrace overly spiritualistic allegorical readings of the Old Testament led him to make five fundamental assertions about marriage, the first three of which have come down to us as definitive for the catholic tradition. First, and most important for this paper, by the time he came to write The City of God, Augustine was offering an unambiguous affirmation of the created goodness of sexual differentiation. In this he was opposed to those theologians who identified sexual differentiation with a fall from spiritual to material reality, if not in fact from an original state of androgyny. Indeed, he insisted, material sexual differentiation will still be present in the new creation and the sexual organs will be, if possible, more beautiful there than they are here. The other two dimensions are, of course, faithfulness in marriage as an antidote to the sexual disorientations that result from the introduction of evil into the world and the bond of permanence that becomes a sacrament of the union between Christ and his Church.

The other two Augustinian accents, like the first, deserve special notice in the context of my argument. In the opening paragraph to The Excellence of Marriage Augustine argues that sociality is at the heart of all human experience such that it 'has naturally the great benefit and power of friendship.' Noting that procreation is not always possible in marriage and that Jesus' presence as a wedding guest at Cana of Galilee is as important as his teaching about divorce, Augustine avers that natural sociability or companionship is one of the goods of marriage. Later in the same book, noting the pleasure involved in intercourse, Augustine follows St. Paul in allowing it where it is desired, even where there is no intention of procreation, arguing that marriage partners have a sexual duty toward one another even where one partner might prefer celibacy. Non-procreative sexual activity within marriage is not a mortal sin.

With these five Augustinian elements in mind, we may draw some tentative conclusions. What is not present in the resurrection? Procreation. Where there is no death, there is no marriage, to paraphrase St. Chrysostom. In The Excellence of Marriage Augustine makes a key move that many of his readers probably find surprising: the different circumstances of different times bear upon what is and is not good in relation to human sexuality. He implicitly divides history into four parts: creation, salvation history prior to Christ, salvation history after Christ, and the new creation. 

Procreation has a fundamental role in establishing the city of God in creation and in compensating for death during salvation history, but beginning from Christ celibacy points to a different reality that will come to fruition in the Kingdom of God. Sacrament, faithfulness, and perhaps desire (in some form - for the beauty of sexual differentiation will certainly continue, says Augustine, contrary to what we suppose his hyper spiritualist opponents might have thought), all of these remain. However, they remain only in the sense that they are fulfilled and in that sense we may suppose that for Augustine they cease to be themselves. 

They are destined finally to be realized and so to be overcome in the perfection of future bliss. Or perhaps we could say that they remain implicitly in the same way that they were implicit in creation while taking their reality fundamentally from the dynamics of salvation history. All three of these elements are more or less consistent with celibacy or other forms of human relationships like those contemplated in philosophical accounts of homosexuality. But sociality and procreation are different. Procreation, while it predates the fall, is the one original element of marriage that is not essential in the life to come, as Jesus and Paul intimate in their references to celibacy. 

Procreation is missing in the end state, as non-procreative relationships are missing in the original, while sociality binds beginning and end, fully present in both as ingredient to the meaning of human nature. Paradise then is not simply reduplicated in paradise regained; bodies remain in their male-female complementarity but procreation does not. There is a radical newness after the coming of Christ that Augustine does not hesitate to name though its implications puzzle him. Material creation and spiritual fulfillment both must receive their due.

Now if we develop a theology of the goods of homosexual unions as included in the 'revisionist' trajectory initiated both in the unambiguous affirmation of celibacy in the present and in the stated absence of procreation in the resurrection, we should have to grant that these goods are part of the new reality instituted in the coming of Christ but that they are not part of the original creation ordinance, just as we must grant that procreative marriage, although grounded in creation, is not unambiguously part of the new creation. That is, the Augustinian view necessitates an overlapping view of human sexuality, the procreative predating the non- procreative reality yet continuing into the future in its now non-procreative- sexual differentiation and, on the other hand, celibate and perhaps same-sex non-procreative relationships, anticipated in original creation-sociality but emerging into view in post-Christic salvation history, arriving upon their angelic destiny only in the final appearing of the city of God.

One of the problems with this view, however, is how to overcome the injustice, real and perceived, embedded in the fact that the waning reality of procreative marriage nevertheless, by virtue of its precedence in time, casts a shadow over non-procreative relationships - such that the status of marriage becomes a prize to be won or privilege to be denied - without an implicit Gnostic marginalization of procreation, and the sexual differentiation that makes it possible, despite its obvious necessity in this continuing realm of death. Furthermore, while justice is a fundamental Christian concern, equality is not. 'Same sex marriage on the liberal egalitarian model, whereby all difference is erased, might end up ironically being the most conservative of options' (Robert Song, Covenant and Calling: Towards a Theology of Same-Sex Relationships, Ch.5 Kindle ed.). 

Consider the inescapable logic of the male/female polarity: if the difference between attraction to the opposite sex and attraction to the same sex is a matter of indifference - if it is all the same, so to speak - then indeed sameness has triumphed over difference and we have ‘homosexualised’ our culture into a post-modern Gnosticism with its own potent spirituality. Where sexual differentiation is ignored then male same-sex relationships may in the long run smother the distinctive gifts that lesbians, transsexuals and intersex people, or heterosexual couples not wishing to have children may bring to the Church. For it does seem that some Christian gay advocates are tempted to purchase recognition at the price of an otherwise traditional conformism that comports uneasily with an earlier generation of gay activists who repudiated the bourgeois overtones of conventional church marriage. 

This conformism may also be, ironically, incapable of withstanding the renewed challenge to marriage presented by plural and incest marriage advocates, to name only two of the issues on the nearest horizon. If so, then the implicit conservatism inherent in the denial of difference will have betrayed us.

The view taken here is that there are a variety of legal remedies relating to the justice issue, including civil marriage with liturgical blessing, but that the felt need for symbolic equality should not be pursued at the cost of giving in to a possibly Gnostic repudiation of the procreative ontological reality of sexual difference. The price is too high. 

Gnosticism is seriously mistaken in its view of the created order and therefore, if procreation is lost to view as a defining good of marriage then, sooner or later, the Church will have to revisit the difference that children make under some other name than marriage. For, however it may willfully redefine marriage, the Church can do nothing to make non-procreative relationships procreative. Whatever technological innovations are brought to bear on the problem, by their very nature they will bear witness to a natural order they can only mimic and can never replace except, should pregnancy among humans become obsolete, by making parents 'among the barren so pitied in the Old Testament'. The natural order may be surmounted by technology but only upon the conditions that the natural order makes available (Oliver O'Donovan, Resurrection and Moral Order, 37). Equality in the matter of procreation is not in the gift of the Church.

Therefore, while an account of the goods of same-sex relationships can be developed along Augustinian lines, without suggesting that he would himself have approved of this development, it is as impermissible to cast same-sex relations back into the prelapsarian state as it is to thrust procreative marriage forward into the future state of the Kingdom. 

The essential point of this brief sketch is that the procreative potential instantiated in sexual differentiation is a fundamental although necessarily time bound and limited ontological reality, whether we call it marriage or not, that has to be reckoned with as a matter of fact and as a matter of the utmost relevance when it comes to the understanding and care of children. 

The marriage canon should not be changed lest the Church in a moment of inadequate theological attention cast us back into a pre-Augustinian Gnosticism, our apparent appetite for bodily pleasure only a thinly veiled cover for the reproductive/technological revolt against the material conditions of our creation, an ill advised attempt to anticipate that freedom from child bearing, while desiring the gift of children, which can only be a life-giving reality in that coming kingdom where there will be no more death and where children will safely live within the embrace of Jesus. 

Attempting to ignore the crucial relevance of procreation in the Church's account of human sexuality is to ignore the only grounds on which there could ever be homosexual or any other relationships at all, the only grounds on which homosexual couples could offer their unique gift of love to adopted children, the only grounds on which there ever could be a kingdom in which it would make sense to say that celibacy and same-sex, and possibly other, unions are anticipations of the angelic like order that awaits humanity. And this would be a return to the Gnosticism that the Early Church doctrine of creation was intended to defeat. 

In that struggle the Bishop of Hippo was the most systematic and the greatest, if not the first, theologian to defend the flesh, indeed, the first and one of the very few theologians ever to have defended the flesh in order to defend the Jews, that historical people for whom procreation was and still is celebrated as the very gift and ground of existence and survival this side of the Messiah's return when, finally, marriage shall be no more because it will not be necessary. 

Friday 18 September 2015

St. Thomas More Choristers begins new season.

STM Choristers have begun practice again. We have 10 children but would like 20 or more. 

Please share this poster with parents, families, teachers and schools.

STM Choristers will join the parish Choir to sing at the Solemn High Mass to inaugurate use of the new Ordinariate Missal on:
Sunday, November 29 
Advent 1 
4:00 p.m.

Tuesday 15 September 2015

Photos from Reception following SOLEMN EVENSONG AND BENEDICTION in thanksgiving for Queen Elizabeth II

Albert Mahon (90) is a member of STM and a former cantor for Healey Willan.
He greets his new great-grandson at the reception.
Albert, a London paperboy, delivered newspapers to Buckingham Palace
before WW II  and served in HM Armed Forces during WW II,
coming to Canada following the war.

Lt. Col. the Rev. Paul Acton, the preacher at Evensong, greets Her Honour
Elizabeth Dowdeswell, L G of Ontario.

LG speaks with the Josipovic children at the reception.

Natalie Josipovic presents LG with flowers.

Monday 14 September 2015

Novena for Boxer Bob

Bob Bozic boxing Larry Holmes in
Madison Square Garden, NYC
Our old friend, Bob Bozic, is a former street kid from Toronto who became a boxer and has worked (and fought) hard all his life. He now has a chance to inherit his family home in Serbia which was seized by the State during WW II. Under new laws in Serbia, families who have had property expropriated may apply for a legal decision to restore the land to them.
Needless to say, this has been a complex and fraught process which has been unsuccessful so far. Bob is travelling to Serbia this week one final time to ask for justice. It would mean that he could retire with a little comfort since he is now 65. 

We are asking those who will to join in a Novena with Our Lady Mary, recommended by Pope Francis -- Our Lady Undoer of Knots.
Miguel and Guadalupe, our Mexican friends, tell us that it was just after we joined in this novena for them that the log-jam in their immigration process broke and things began to come together. They arrived back in Canada last month after a three year wait. I also credit the prayers of Our Lady with getting my Mum into the Col. Belcher in Calgary.
Please join us with this simple prayer for nine days beginning today, September 14: THE EXALTATION OF THE HOLY CROSS to Tuesday, September 22. Of course, you can add your own intentions and prayers for those "knotted" situations you are concerned about as we share in this devotion.

Thank you, God bless and Mary's prayers be with you.

Novena - Mary, Our Lady Undoer of Knots


September 14 (Triumph of the Cross) to September 22, 2015

Pope Francis has been one of the chief promoters of “Our Lady Undoer of Knots.”  As a young man, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was studying in Germany. He was very taken by a Bavarian painting of “Holy Mary, Our Lady Untier of Knots.” He acquired a copy of the painting and brought it to Argentina with him. He promoted devotion to Mary under this title and  apparently it has caught on with the faithful of Argentina. 

It is interesting that this Marian devotion of Pope Francis is rooted in Bavaria –  a bridge between the Pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI and that of Pope Francis. Some time ago, Cardinal Bergoglio had an image of Our Lady Undoer of Knots engraved into a chalice and presented it to Pope Benedict XVI.

Something about the theology surrounding this Marian Devotion, thanks to Dr. Taylor Marshall:
The theology of Mary untying knots goes back to the second century – less than one hundred years after the death of the Apostles. Saint Irenaeus of Lyons wrote “the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the Blessed Virgin Mary set free through faith.” (Adversus haereses, 3, 22) 

This is one of the earliest examples of describing Mary as the “New Eve.” Eve, standing next to Adam, is the “co-peccatrix” (co-sinner) Mary, standing next to Christ crucified, is the “co-redemptrix” (co-redemptress). This does not mean that Mary directly saves or redeems us. It means that Mary consents and participates in the redemptive action of Christ. Her role is congruent and relative to the condign and absolute role of Christ.
Our Lady Undoer of Knots is Patristic and may be the way forward for establishing and expanding Marian theology. 

The doctrine of Mary’s universal mediation and her subordinate role to Christ in human salvation is beautifully summed up in this saying of Saint Irenaeus of Lyons. The fact that it goes back to the second century reveals that this is not a medieval accretion. It’s a doctrine deriving from the Apostles themselves.

Please  share in the Novena to Our Lady Untier of Knots as well as the concluding prayer for the intercession of Blessed John Henry Newman.
Instructions for praying the Novena:  Mary, Undoer of Knots
         Please note that the first part is composed of four steps, the last of which involves a separate meditation for each day of the novena; after the list of meditations, there is a second part of the novena, composed of three steps.

1.   Begin each day of the Novena  with the Sign of the Cross.

2.   Make an Act of Contrition. Oh my God I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee. I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell. But most of all, because I have offended Thee, oh my God, who art all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen.

3.   Pray the first three decades of the rosary, with the appropriate mysteries for the day: Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious.

4.   Make the meditation of the day.

5.   Pray the last two decades of the rosary, with the appropriate mysteries for the day: Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious.

6.   Pray the Prayer: Mary, Undoer of Knots and the prayer for the intercession of Blessed John Henry Newman.

7.   End each day of the Novena with the Sign of the Cross.


An inspiring prayer opens the novena summing up the role of the Virgin Mary, Untier of Knots. 

Holy Mary, full of God’s presence during the days accepted with full humility the Father’s will, and the Devil was never capable to tie you around with his confusion. Once with your Son you interceded for our difficulties, and, full of kindness and patience you gave us example of how to untie the knots of our life. And by remaining forever Our Mother, you put in order, and make clearer the ties that link us to the Lord. Holy Mother, Mother of God, and our Mother, to you, who untie with motherly heart the knots of our life, we pray to you to receive in your hands (name of person), and to free him/her of the knots and confusion with which our enemy attacks. Through your grace, your intercession, and your example, deliver us from all evil, Our Lady, and untie the knots that prevent us from being tied with God, so that we, free from sin and error, may find Him in all things, may have our hearts placed in Him, and may serve Him always in our brothers and sisters.  Amen.

1.  Meditation for the First Day of the Novena
Dearest Holy Mother, Most Holy Mary, you undo the knots that suffocate your children. Extend your merciful hands to me. I entrust to You today this knot [Mention your request here] and all the negative consequences that it provokes in my life. I give you this knot that torments me and makes me unhappy and so impedes me from uniting myself to You and Your Son Jesus, my Saviour. I run to You, Mary, Undoer of Knots, because I trust you and I know that you never despise a sinning child who comes to ask you for help. I believe that you can undo this knot because Jesus grants you everything. I believe that you want to undo this knot because you are my Mother. I believe that You will do this because you love me with eternal love.  Thank you, Dear Mother.
Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for me.

Prayer: Mary, Undoer of Knots

Virgin Mary, Mother of fair love, Mother who never refuses to come to the aid of a child in need, Mother whose hands never cease to serve your beloved children because they are moved by the divine love and immense mercy that exists in your heart, cast your compassionate eyes upon me and see the snarl of knots that exist in my life. You know very well how desperate I am, my pain, and how I am bound by these knots. Mary, Mother to whom God entrusted the undoing of the knots in the lives of his children, I entrust into your hands the ribbon of my life. No one, not even the Evil One himself, can take it away from your precious care. In your hands there is no knot that cannot be undone. Powerful Mother, by your grace and intercessory power with Your Son and My Liberator, Jesus, take into your hands today this knot.

         [Mention your request here]

I beg you to undo it for the glory of God, once for all. You are my hope. O my Lady, you are the only consolation God gives me, the fortification of my feeble strength, the enrichment of my destitution, and, with Christ, the freedom from my chains. Hear my plea. Keep me, guide me, protect me, o safe refuge!   
Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for me.  [Repeat daily after the meditation.]

2. Meditation for the Second Day of the Novena
Mary, Beloved Mother, channel of all grace, I return to You today my heart, recognizing that I am a sinner in need of your help. Many times I lose the graces you grant me because of my sins of egoism, pride, rancour and my lack of generosity and humility. I turn to You today, Mary, Undoer of Knots, for You to ask your Son Jesus to grant me a pure, divested, humble and trusting heart. I will live today practicing these virtues and offering you this as a sign of my love for You. I entrust into Your hands this knot [Mention your request here] which keeps me from reflecting the glory of God.
Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for me.
Recite Prayer: Mary, Undoer of Knots - see above

3. Meditation for the Third Day of the Novena
Meditating Mother, Queen of heaven, in whose hands the treasures of the King are found, turn your merciful eyes upon me today. I entrust into your holy hands this knot in my life [Mention your request here] and all the rancour and resentment it has caused in me. I ask Your forgiveness, God the Father, for my sin. Help me now to forgive all the persons who consciously or unconsciously provoked this knot. Give me, also, the grace to forgive me for having provoked this knot. Only in this way can You undo it. Before You, dearest Mother, and in the name of Your Son Jesus, my Saviour, who has suffered so many offenses, having been granted forgiveness, I now forgive these persons [mention their names here] and myself, forever. Thank you, Mary, Undoer of Knots for undoing the knot of rancour in my heart and the knot which I now present to you. Amen.
Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for me.
Recite the Prayer: Mary, Undoer of Knots

4. Meditation for the Fourth Day of the Novena Dearest Holy Mother, you are generous with all who seek you, have mercy on me. I entrust into your hands this knot which robs the peace of my heart, paralyzes my soul and keeps me from going to my Lord and serving Him with my life. Undo this knot in my love [Mention your request here], O Mother, and ask Jesus to heal my paralytic faith, which gets downhearted with the stones on the road. Along with you, dearest Mother, may I see these stones as friends. Not murmuring against them anymore but giving endless thanks for them, may I smile trustingly in your power.
Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for me.
Recite the Prayer: Mary, Undoer of Knots

5. Meditation for the Fifth Day of the Novena
Mother Mary, Undoer of Knots, generous and compassionate, I come to You today to once again entrust this knot [Mention your request here] in my life to you and to ask the divine wisdom to undo, under the light of the Holy Spirit, this snarl of problems. No one ever saw you angry; to the contrary, your words were so charged with sweetness that the Holy Spirit was manifested on your lips. Take away from me the bitterness, anger, and hatred which this knot has caused me. Give me, O dearest Mother, some of the sweetness and wisdom that is all silently reflected in your heart. And just as you were present at Pentecost, ask Jesus to send me a new presence of the Holy Spirit at this moment in my life. Holy Spirit, come upon me!
Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for me.
Recite the Prayer: Mary, Undoer of Knots

6. Meditation for the Sixth Day of the Novena
Queen of Mercy, I entrust to you this knot in my life [Mention your request here] and I ask you to give me a heart that is patient until you undo it. Teach me to persevere in the living word of Jesus, in the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Confession; stay with me and prepare my heart to celebrate with the angels the grace that will be granted to me. Amen! Alleluia!
Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for me.
Recite the Prayer: Mary, Undoer of Knots

7. Meditation for the Seventh Day of the Novena
 Mother Most Pure, I come to You today to beg you to undo this knot in my life [Mention your request here] and free me from the snares of evil. God has granted you great power over all the demons. I renounce all of them today, every connection I have had with them, and I proclaim Jesus as my one and only Lord and Saviour. Mary, Undoer of Knots, crush the Evil One’s head and destroy the traps he has set for me by this knot. Thank you, dearest Mother. Most Precious Blood of Jesus, free me!
Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for me.
Recite the Prayer: Mary, Undoer of Knots

8. Meditation for the Eighth Day of the Novena
Virgin Mother of God, overflowing with mercy, have mercy on your child and undo this knot [Mention your request here] in my life. I need your visit to my life, like you visited Elizabeth. Bring me Jesus, bring me the Holy Spirit. Teach me to practice the virtues of courage, joyfulness, humility, and faith, and, like Elizabeth, to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Make me joyfully rest on your bosom, Mary. I consecrate you as my mother, queen, and friend. I give you my heart and everything I have— my home and family, my material and spiritual goods. I am yours forever. Put your heart in me so that I can do everything Jesus tells me.
Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for me.
Recite the Prayer: Mary, Undoer of Knots

9. Meditation for the Ninth Day of the Novena
Most Holy Mary, our Advocate, Undoer of Knots, I come today to thank you for undoing this knot in my life. You know very well the suffering it has caused me. Thank you for coming, Mother, with your long fingers of mercy to dry the tears in my eyes; you receive me in your arms and make it possible for me to receive once again the divine grace. Mary, Undoer of Knots, dearest Mother, I thank you for undoing the knots in my life. Wrap me in your mantle of love, keep me under your protection, enlighten me with your peace! Amen.
Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for me.
Recite the Prayer: Mary, Undoer of Knots


We know that Blessed JHN had a deep and abiding devotion to Our Lady under her many titles. He was a patristic scholar and prayed for the untying of many knots in his very rough journey of faith into the light of unity in the Catholic Church.

The second phase of our partnership in prayer is to offer the following prayer invoking the intercession of Blessed John Henry Newman at Mass and daily prayer for nine days:

God our Father, who granted to thy servant Blessed John Henry Newman wonderful gifts of nature and of grace, that he should be a spiritual light in the darkness of this world, an eloquent herald of the Gospel, and a devoted servant of the one Church of Christ.
With confidence in his heavenly intercession, we make the following petition: [here make your petition]
For his insight into the mysteries of the kingdom, his zealous defence of the teachings of the Church, and his priestly love for each of thy children, we pray that he may soon be numbered among the Saints.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.  AMEN.

Saturday 12 September 2015

Fifteenth Priest for the Canadian Ordinariate Deanery

Msgr Steenson with Fr Ousley of Philadelphia and Fr Hayman of Ottawa (left from centre) joined more than 25 other Ordinariate and diocesan priests to celebrate the ordination of Fr Richard Harris at Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Saint John NB yesterday, Sept. 11, 2015.

Fr. Richard Harris is Pastor of Our Lady of the Sign, Ordinariate congregation in Fredericton, NB.  This is the first Ordinariate congregation in the Maritimes and Fr. Harris is the 15th Canadian priest for the small but growing Deanery of St. John the Baptist (Canada)

Thursday 10 September 2015

Annulments are principally a pastoral rather than a legal matter for the Catholic Church

The new motto proprio from Pope Francis, is a papal declaration establishing new canons (regulations) for the determination of whether a sacramental marriage exists in cases that are brought before the local Church.

Nothing has changed regarding the teaching of the Church about the indissolubility of a sacramental marriage.  What has changed is that many cases which have resulted in a clear declaration of nullity will not have to be appealed to a court in Rome automatically.  Those cases that need to be appealed will still be sent for a second opinion but in many, if not most cases, the decision of the local or diocesan tribunal will be fair, final and relatively fast.
These new regulations are a pastoral approach on several levels.  First they assume that people need a clear declaration from the Church about their relationships within a reasonable time. The rules now make it possible to have a response from the local church in 45 days or a bit more in most cases.

Secondly, the recommendation is that the costs of the process for a declaration of nullity should be kept down. In the case of those with limited resources, especially in many poor Catholic countries, these costs should be provided for by the Church as a matter of pastoral concern.  The Archdiocese of Toronto makes a point of not burdening people with the costs while accepting donations for the time and expense of dealing with cases from those who can afford to contribute. The principle is that no one should be denied a hearing because they cannot afford it.

By putting the emphasis on mercy and fairness while upholding the sanctity of marriage and a high degree of canonical clarity, the Church will help many more people to regularize their lives, giving them hope and allowing them to be strengthened by the sacraments in their journey of faith.

Saturday 5 September 2015

Canadian Government Faces a Choice on Euthanasia

Just as the images of Planned Parenthood's holocaust are being examined, and in the midst of the Canadian Federal election campaign, the question of Euthanasia is before the national government.  The CATHOLIC REGISTER has weighed in while the MSM is largely quiet. Why?  This is another issue about the sanctity of human life.
Ontario and several other provinces are following the federal government’s lead in assembling “expert” panels to research and make recommendations during a mad dash to transform Canada into a nation that permits doctors to kill selected patients or help these patients kill themselves.
This haste to implement physician-assisted killing was sparked last February when the Supreme Court, reversing its own ruling of two decades ago, struck down Canada’s blanket ban on assisted suicide as unconstitutional. The judges gave Ottawa one year to enact legislation to permit doctor-assisted death for consenting adults afflicted by what the judges called intolerable physical or psychological suffering.  Sadly, its moral compass spinning wildly, Canada is hurtling towards a day just six months out when doctors will be allowed, maybe encouraged, to kill as well as heal, to abet what Cardinal Thomas Collins has termed a “perversion of the vocation of physicians.” 
Advisory groups, such as a three-person panel of the federal government and a multi-province panel spearheaded by Ontario, are scrambling to make recommendations on the who, when, where and how of assisted suicide. Amid all this talking and polling, however, there is a profound silence in the public forum that matters most. 
A shift in social policy as earth-shaking as this should be a major issue during the federal election campaign. Seldom in the life of a nation does it face such a fundamentally critical debate. Yes, jobs, security and the environment are important. But nothing is more critical than decisions about life and death itself. There is no greater issue facing Canada at this time. Yet across the campaign trail there is only a grim, appalling silence.
If this controversial issue brings out the ostrich in aspiring parliamentarians, it is up to voters to press the matter when candidates ring doorbells and hold town-hall debates. Determining which of Canada’s suffering citizens will live and which will die with doctor assistance is likely the most critical piece of business the next Parliament will face. Candidates should be compelled to address it.
Beyond learning where each candidate stands on assisted suicide and euthanasia, voters should demand to know if their next MP would: support invoking the notwithstanding clause to suspend the Supreme Court decision for five years; call for a Royal Commission to study doctor-assisted suicide; promote the narrowest interpretation possible of the Supreme Court decision; vigourously defend a doctor’s right to not only refuse to kill or help kill patients but also refuse to refer patients to doctors who condone the practice.
Citizens have a responsibility to be engaged in this critical issue through various government online forums and other public initiatives. But politicians have a duty as well. They should make their views known or be pressured to do so by voters.

Tuesday 1 September 2015

Year of Mercy - Confession, Indulgences and the comforting doctrine of Purgatory

In preparing for the Jubilee Year of Mercy (December 2015 - 2016), Pope Francis has called for us to make Confession a central moment.  In addition the teaching about Purgatory and indulgences during the holy year is being highlighted as part of God's mercy proclaimed as part of  the New Evangelization.

A report in THE CATHOLIC HERALD points out this traditional approach to preparing.

Confession for Jubilee Year