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Monday 30 November 2015

Homily for Advent 1 C "Look Up"-- Inaugurating Divine Worship: The Missal -- Nov. 29, 2015 - STM Toronto

“ Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness and put upon us the armour of light.”

As we begin the journey of Advent, to the land of promise, the Ordinariate communities and our fellow Catholics around the world look back on Israel’s desire and anticipation, we look back knowing that God has already made good on the Covenant promises by sending His only Son into the world. Jesus is the “just shoot,” the Saviour for whom Israel was waiting.

As those who have come from another country, in a sense, members of the Ordinariate also look for the armour of light. We do so as we  look up, look up to the transcendent God of Israel and to the coming of Christ.

As we await and look up for the final coming of our Lord, we take consolation from the gathering in of the sheaves, the healing of the Reformation breach and the reunion of Anglican patrimony with the universal Church. 

Today, we do so in a very special way as we celebrate Mass for first time with Divine Worship: The Missal, the beautiful, transcendent liturgy approved by the Holy See for Ordinariate communities around the globe with our mission to gather the sheaves into unity.  

So it is with great joy that we inaugurate today the use of Divine Worship: The Missal.  Yes, we can now say:  3, 2, 1:  Houston -- we have lift off! 

In a recent address to educators Pope Francis said:
“Today there is a tendency toward a neo-positivism, that is, to educate people in immanent [material or transient and passing] things [only].”  

The Holy Father went on to say that this tendency to ignore the transcendent is found in both traditionally Christian countries as in purely secular cultures. We might say he is calling attention to the failure to look up, to look higher, to aspire.

“Transcendence” the Pope said “is what is missing . . . “The greatest crisis in education,” he continued, “in order that it be [truly and authentically] Christian, is that there is a closure to transcendence.”

The Holy Father asserted that our role [as the Church] is: “To prepare hearts, that the Lord might manifest Himself.”  This is the mission of all Christian leaders, parents and teachers, to call us to look up! Look up to God for the grace to cast away the works of darkness and put on the armour of light.
Pope Francis concluded with an appeal and an assignment for those present and for  Catholics and others, everywhere; that is: to respond to the brutalities of war and terrorism in the contemporary world by looking up to the source of Mercy, by committing ourselves anew to learning and teaching mercy, and to worshipping, to looking up to the source of all mercy. 

Pope Francis asked us to inaugurate the Year of Mercy by especially giving ourselves to the fourteen Works of Mercy. “Think through once again the works of mercy,” the Holy Father said, “they are the work of the Father.” Mercy issues, of course, not from within or below but from the transcendence of God’s love.

This is the grace we pray for: “Almighty God give us grace, that we may cast away the works of darkness . . .

In addition to the gift of our new Missal, we give thanks this week for the appointment of our first bishop for the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, Bishop-elect Steven Lopes, an American who worked long in Rome on our missal and on the foundation of the Ordinariates.  Msgr Lopes is known to and knows well the people of the Ordinariates.  

Finally, we may add to our joy the fact that the Holy Father has given permission for all priests of the Latin (Western) Rite of the Catholic Church i.e. all Roman Catholic priests everywhere to celebrate Mass using Divine Worship: The Missal either in private Masses or for Ordinariate members and communities. This is a great extension of our mission to bring forward the English Catholic patrimony into full communion with Rome.

With this new missal, which is another form or expression of the Roman Missal, we have the best of the language, music and liturgical tradition from the English, Anglican and Methodist traditions and from other English-speaking communities around the world. 

All the best work of our Anglo-Catholic pioneers, those who shaped the English Missal, the Anglican Missal and much of the music of our patrimony, all their best efforts are now beautifully set forth in a liturgy and Missal authorized by the Holy See for use globally.

Previously these liturgies were unauthorized either by the Anglicans because they were too Catholic or by the Catholic Church because they were developed by Protestants. For the first time, these rites are authorized for use in English in the Western (English-speaking) Church. 

The language and patrimony are harmonized with Catholic teaching so that this liturgy and the communities who express their worship looking up to the transcendent Lord may do so into the foreseeable future, and beyond; perhaps until our looking up is met with the return of the Lord.

The poetry and beauty of Divine Worship: The Missal directs our minds and our thoughts to look to the east, to look east both metaphorically and liturgically, to look to the transcendent, to look up to God the source of all mercy and grace.

“ Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness and put upon us the armour of light.”

Sunday 29 November 2015


As English-speaking Catholics around the world celebrate the new and distinctive liturgy of the Roman Rite, which includes much from the Anglican patrimony, there are many questions about who may celebrate and who may share in Holy Communion at Masses according to DIVINE WORSHIP: THE MISSAL. 
In short, all Western (Latin or Roman) Rite Catholic priests may celebrate this Mass either privately or for Ordinariate individuals or communities.  All Catholics may receive Holy Communion and other sacraments at Ordinariate churches just as they may in Ukrainian, Melkite, Maronite or other eastern Catholic churches in communion with the Holy See in Rome.  
Solemn High Mass at STM Toronto with Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson 
The following article from NCR may answer some other questions.

For Catholics of Anglican heritage, the new Divine Worship missal restores all of England’s Catholic patrimony from Anglican tradition and is the Holy Father’s gift to them and the entire Church.
WASHINGTON — When Susan White converted to the Catholic faith 25 years ago, she made the painful choice to leave behind the Anglican devotions, prayers and traditions that had formed her Christian life up until that point.
“I kept some of them privately and quietly,” she told the Register. “I would say the ‘Prayer of Humble Access’ under my breath before receiving Communion.”
White said that, for many Anglicans — also called Episcopalians in the U.S. — even the thought of crossing the Tiber and exile from these traditions “can be very painful.”
But on the First Sunday of Advent, that all changes. The Anglican patrimony will become permanently fixed in the life of the Catholic Church, when Catholics who belong to the personal ordinariates established by Benedict XVI in 2009 celebrate their new liturgy: an approved Roman missal assembled from the best of the ordinary Roman rite and Anglican liturgical texts dating as far back as 1549.
White said this new, permanent missal is a “gesture of love” from Rome for Catholics from the Anglican tradition — the Thames’ Anglican water now forever mingles with the Roman Tiber. It sends a signal they “want all our separated brethren to come home.”
“Now, what Rome has said is, ‘We want you to bring your treasures with you,’” she said. “It is tremendously moving.”
“This is really a Roman liturgy, just in an Anglican [liturgical] tradition and in a missal approved by Rome,” said White’s pastor, Father Mark Lewis of St. Luke’s ordinariate parish, which worships at Immaculate Conception Church in Washington. “It represents the good things of Anglicanism that held Catholic truth, and developed Catholic-minded men and women throughout the centuries, even though they may have been separated from Rome.”
Any Catholic can attend this new Roman rite in the Anglican tradition and fulfill his or her Sunday Mass obligation. All Catholics can participate in the ordinariate community life even if they are not formal members and attend Masses. Formal membership in the ordinariate is possible for Catholics who have an Anglican heritage — Anglican, Episcopalian, Methodist or African Methodist Episcopal — or who are baptized or confirmed in the ordinariate or who have family members baptized or confirmed in the ordinariate.
Father Lewis told the Register that the Divine Worship missal sends a powerful signal to Anglicans that they can become Catholics and keep their Anglican patrimony, which is now permanently grounded in the Catholic Church.
“With this missal, it gives us stability. We’re going to be here — this is forever,” he said. The stability of the liturgy will not only help his parish evangelize, but also provide a bridge for Anglicans that have taken a wait-and-see posture toward joining the Church.
Father Lewis said the approved variation of the Roman rite also sends a powerful message to the entire Church that the faithful in the ordinariate are “solid Catholics, faithful to the magisterium and the teachings of the Church” and are here to stay.
Enrichment for the Whole Church
Accompanying the missal is a decree from Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship, declaring that, by Pope Francis’s authority, the congregation “now approves this missal as a legitimate [part] of the Roman rite.” The cardinal explains that the new missal reflects the customs and traditions of “the Anglican liturgical and spiritual patrimony that have developed over the course of 500 years and are in accord with the Catholic faith.”
The prefect stated the missal proceeds from the Holy Father’s desire to “heal wounds of division in the Body of Christ.” For this reason, Pope Benedict XVI approved in 2009 the apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, which created personal ordinariates “for Anglicans wishing to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church.”
Father Timothy Perkins, director of worship for the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter — which covers North America — and pastor of the Catholic Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Arlington, Texas, told the Register that Catholics of Anglican heritage, and Catholics who worship according to the ordinary or extraordinary forms, will recognize familiar elements and patterns of the Mass.
“This is recognizably the Roman rite, with an Anglican accent,” he said.
The Mass begins with the In nomine: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” — or “of the Holy Ghost,” depending on the community’s local custom. Father Perkins said Divine Worship: The Missal allows ordinariate congregations to choose either option in the liturgy.
Catholics who are former Anglicans will recognize beloved prayers in the Mass: the recitation of the Decalogue, the “Comfortable Words” and the “Prayer of Humble Access” recited before Communion.
All Latin-rite Catholics will recognize the Roman Canon on Sunday, but hear it prayed in the “elevated language” that harkens back to Shakespeare’s time.
For instance, instead of responding “and with your spirit,” the congregation says “and with thy spirit.” The people’s response during the Offertory, “It is right and just,” is rendered in the Divine Worship missal as, “It is meet and right so to do.” The phrase “the living and the dead” appears throughout the liturgy as “the quick and the dead.”
Catholics used to the extraordinary form of the Roman Missal, also known as the Tridentine Mass, will recognize such elements in the liturgy as the prayers at the foot of the altar, the Asperges Me and the Last Gospel (which are optional additional features – Ed).
In addition, the ordinariate priest typically prays ad orientem (facing the altar with the people), and communicants receive under both kinds, while kneeling.
“It is very clear we are grounded in the heritage of the ages in communion with the entire Church universal,” Father Perkins said.
Captivated by Beauty
Divine Worship also restores to the Roman rite a certain accent of English Christianity lost since the Church of England split from the Catholic Church in 1534.
Liturgical practices known to “Merry Olde England” before the Reformation, when Catholics there prayed the Sarum use of the Roman rite, are now recovered, said Andrew Jordan, a physics professor at the University of Rochester who belongs to St. Alban’s Fellowship in Rochester, N.Y. Jordan, who is helping his ordinariate community get ready for their first Mass with the new missal, pointed to the “Votive Mass of the Five Wounds” as an example.
“This was very popular in medieval England — and seemed to have been lost to Western Christianity — but it is right here as an option for a votive Mass,” he said.
There are also a series of Masses dedicated to the Virgin Mary drawn from that pre-Reformation era, when England was known as “Our Lady’s Dowry” because its devotion to the Blessed Mother was so strong.
“It’s a Catholic missal in every sense,” Jordan said, adding that former Anglicans now can experience a far richer English patrimony than they ever had in the Anglican Communion.
“In terms of evangelization, two of the most powerful things are truth and beauty,” he said. “I think people who experience this missal will see truth and beauty and be drawn to God.”
Further Riches for the Church
Father Perkins noted that Benedict XVI envisioned that the ordinariates would enrich other Catholics around them.
The new missal also allows Latin-rite priests who do not belong to the ordinariate to concelebrate with an ordinariate priest. They can also obtain permission to celebrate this form of the Mass for a community of Catholics of Anglican heritage that lacks a regular ordinariate priest.
The Anglican tradition also includes morning and evening communal prayer — known as “Matins” and “Evensong” — from the Divine Office. At a number of Catholic parishes, this coincides with Eucharistic adoration. The next step for the ordinariates will be working with Rome to produce an authoritative Daily Office in the Anglican tradition.
“I want to say to all the faithful: Take an opportunity, if you can, to visit with us, give us your encouragement and join with us in this beautiful expression of our Catholic worship,” Father Perkins said. “We want to welcome all our brothers and sisters and share with them this great gift.”

Peter Jesserer Smith is a Register staff writer.

Friday 27 November 2015

Divine Worship: The Missal and the STM Mass Booklet

Houston - Ready to launch.

Nine Lessons and Carols with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament - December 22

Pope Francis has called for International action to stop anti-Christian persecution - What is Canada doing?

The Federal Government of Canada is quoted in CBC reports that it will focus on "mothers, children and families" as it welcomes 25,000 refugees from Syria.
The reports continue, paradoxically, that single men will not be included but the LGBT 'community' will be given priority as well (single men?) -- no mention, however, of the severely persecuted Christians of Syria and the Middle East generally.
The following report on Pope Francis' statements about refugees appeared in the Catholic Herald some weeks ago before the Canadian election.  Little seems to have changed.

“Do something to put a stop to the violence and oppression,” Pope Francis asked the international community after calling attention once again to the fate of persecuted Christians, especially in the Middle East.
Pope Francis told thousands of people in St Peter’s Square [in September] that, the previous evening in Lebanon,martyred Syriac Bishop Flavien-Michel Malke was beatified.
“In the context of a tremendous persecution of Christians, he was an untiring defender of the rights of his people, exhorting all of them to remain firm in their faith,” the Pope said.
“Today as well, in the Middle East and other parts of the world, Christians are persecuted,” the Pope said. “May the beatification of this bishop and martyr fill them with consolation, courage and hope.”
Departing from his prepared text, Pope Francis told people in the square, “There are more martyrs (today) than there were in the first centuries” of Christianity.
He prayed that the beatification would “also be a stimulus for legislators and those who govern so that religious freedom would be guaranteed everywhere. And I ask the international community to do something to put a stop to the violence and oppression.”
The beatification liturgy for Bishop Malke was celebrated in Harissa, Lebanon, on August 29, the 100th anniversary of his death. Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan presided at the liturgy; Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes was present.
In his homily, Patriarch Younan pointed out that the Catholic Church commemorates the beheading of St John the Baptist. Referring to the 1915 Armenian genocide and what is happening today, especially in Syria and Iraq, the patriarch asked, “Why?”
“The secret of suffering one does not understand. It accepts the spirit of Christ,” the patriarch said.
Last summer thousands of Christians in Mosul and the Ninevah Plain in Iraq, including nearly 40,000 Syriac Catholics, were driven out by ISIS militants. The militants have posted multiple videos of beheadings.
Patriarch Younan denounced the passivity of world powers “that boast defending freedoms and abandon to their fate the people” who took the risk of staying in their homelands.
He stressed that not only Syriac Catholics are under threat, but all the Christians of the East — Chaldean, Assyrians, Maronites, Melkites, Armenians and that “when the persecution is not physical it is moral.”
“Where is the conscience of the world?” he asked.

Advent and Christmas 2015 at St Thomas More, Toronto

November 29 at 4:00 pm

Sing-along  ‘SOUND OF MUSIC’  
with Pot-luck Supper
Sunday, December 6 at 5:30 pm

Lessons and Carols with Benediction 
of the Blessed Sacrament 
Tuesday, December 22 at 7:00 pm

Sung Mass of the Nativity of our Lord – Christmas Eve
Thursday, December 24 at 4:00 p.m.
Sung Mass and Holy Baptism: Holy Family Sunday
Sunday, December 27 at 4:00 p.m.
Sung Mass: Mary, Mother of God  (Day of Obligation)
Thursday, December 31 at 4:00 pm

Tuesday 24 November 2015


Bishop-elect Steven Lopes meets Pope Francis

Pope Francis and other enjoy the "launching of the Ordinariate Missal."

HOUSTON — Pope Francis has named the Rev. Monsignor Steven J. Lopes to be the first bishop of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter: a structure equivalent to a diocese for Roman Catholics who were nurtured in the Anglican tradition.
The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter was established by Pope Benedict on Jan. 1, 2012, with its headquarters located in Houston, Texas. Founded to serve Roman Catholics across the U.S. and Canada, it is the first diocese of its kind in North America.

The Ordinariate was created to provide a path for groups of Anglicans to become fully Roman Catholic, while retaining elements of their worship traditions and spiritual heritage in their union with the Holy Roman Church.
Msgr. Jeffrey N. Steenson, the leader of the Ordinariate since 2012, will introduce Bishop-elect Lopes at a live news conference at 10:30 a.m. CST at the Chancery Offices of the Ordinariate, 7730 Westview, Houston, Texas. A telephone news conference for media will also be held at 12 p.m. CST.

With this appointment, Pope Francis affirms and amplifies Pope Benedict’s vision for Christian unity, in which diverse expressions of one faith are joined together in the Church. By naming Bishop-elect Lopes, the Pope has confirmed that the Ordinariate is a permanent, enduring part of the Catholic Church, like any other diocese — one that is now given a bishop so that it may deepen its contribution to the life of the Church and the world.

Bishop Lopes’ appointment comes just five days before the Ordinariate begins using Divine Worship: The Missal, a new book of liturgical texts for the celebration of Mass in the Personal Ordinariates around the globe. The texts were approved by the Vatican for use beginning the first Sunday of Advent, Nov. 29, 2015. 
Bishop-elect Lopes was directly involved in developing these texts for worship; since 2011, he has served as the executive coordinator of the Vatican commission, Anglicanae Traditiones, which produced the new texts.

The new missal is a milestone in the life of the Ordinariate, since the Ordinariate’s mission is particularly expressed through the reverence and beauty of its worship, which shares the treasury of the Anglican liturgical and musical traditions with the wider Catholic community.

Pope Benedict's vision for Christian unity and the concrete ways that Pope Francis is implementing that vision demonstrate that unity in faith allows for a vibrant diversity in the expression of that faith. The Ordinariate is a key ecumenical venture for the Catholic Church and a concrete example of this unity in diversity.


Steven Joseph Lopes, 40, is a Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. As the bishop-elect of the Ordinariate, he will reside in Houston, Texas.

Bishop-elect Lopes was born and raised in Fremont, Calif. The only child of Dr. José de Oliveira Lopes (deceased) and Barbara Jane Lopes, he attended Catholic schools in the Golden State, including the St. Ignatius Institute at the University of San Francisco. He earned licentiate and doctoral degrees in sacred theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

He was ordained a priest in June 2001 and spent the first several years of his priesthood as an associate pastor at two parishes: St. Patrick Catholic Church in San Francisco and St. Anselm Catholic Church in Ross, Calif. 

Thursday 19 November 2015

Background to "Missal Launch"

Deb Gyapong has an excellent article in the CATHOLIC REGISTER about the "Missal Launch"

Here are some excerpts:

Pope Francis with Archbishop Di Noia and Msgr Steven Lopes of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Mr Pierpaolo Finaldi (holding the missal) from The Catholic Truth Society, the publisher.
On the first Sunday of Advent, former Anglicans who are now Catholics belonging to the three personal ordinariates will celebrate according to their own new liturgical book, "Divine Worship: The Missal."

"It is a new moment in history," said Father Timothy Perkins, the liturgy director for North America's Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter (POCSP) in an interview from Arlington, Tex. "Never before has there been a document from the Vatican that allowed for inclusion of elements from separated ecclesial communities, incorporated into the Eucharistic celebration of the Church."

"It really is unique, and it clarifies in some sense the seriousness of the desire of Holy Church to welcome those who've been in separation into the fullness of communion within the Catholic Church," he said.

The missal will unify the liturgy in all three ordinariates, including the POCSP, the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in the United Kingdom, and the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross in Australia.

"This missal is now recognized by the Church as standing side by side with the Roman Missal," said POCSP Ordinary Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson in a Q&A posted on the ordinariate's website. Msgr. Steenson, a former Episcopalian bishop, stressed the missal "fits firmly and squarely in the Latin rite."

"It is not a Protestant service dressed up as a Catholic Mass," Msgr. Steenson said. "It is the Catholic Mass of the western rite, filtered through the Anglican experience, corrected and expressed in an Anglican voice."

[Father Perkins, Pastor of a large Ordinariate parish in Alington TX] . . .  also sees a missionary dimension. "I think one of the aspects of the mission that we've been given by Mother Church is to be a beacon for others of our separated brothers and sisters," he said. That mission includes being "able to reach out to them in a way that says, 'Yes, I understand the values of your practice of Christianity. I look upon you as beloved in the Lord and Holy Mother Church desires that all her children dwell in unity."

"You cannot underestimate the missionary dimension of the liturgy in general and especially of this beautiful liturgy of the ordinariate," said Professor Hans-Jurgen Feulner, an author and professor of liturgics at the University of Vienna in Austria.

Feulner was a member of the Anglicanae Traditiones Commission, an international group of experts, including Catholic bishops, scholars, representatives of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), and former Anglican clergy who, over the past five years, advised CDF and the Congregation for Divine Worship on the development of the missal.

Feulner's interest in Anglican liturgy happened by accident while he was studying in Munich in the late 1980s, he said. He was late to a seminar on ordination rites and all the topics had been handed out except for the Anglican one. "I was very unhappy," he said. "I had no clue." But he found the subject fascinating, and turned in a paper of 80 pages.

Feulner said the commission decided the Anglican Use liturgy already approved by Rome would be its starting point for building the new liturgy. The missal includes appendices so Anglicans of a more traditional bent can use options such as the prayers at the foot of the altar "to give more flexibility," he said. The commission also decided to use the high sacral language of the Book of Common Prayer instead of contemporary English.

"It was not easy," he said. "It involved a lot of meetings, a lot of travelling around. I met a lot of parishes and clergy, asked people in person, what would you like to have? What are your liturgical needs?"

The basic form of the Mass has been in use in North America for two years, so those in the pews will not experience much that is new on the First Sunday of Advent. What the missal does is gather all the propers, the parts of the Mass that change according to the day and the season.

As a professor of liturgy, Feulner said, he has also voluntarily sought feedback from people. So many have told him, "We are so thankful and grateful for this beautiful liturgy," he said. They see how "wonderful" it is "to have a space with the Catholic Church" where they keep their own traditions and the sense of Pope Benedict's XVI's view of the liturgy as a "mirror of the beauty of heaven here on earth."

. . . . Liturgy was a big concern for Norm Freeman, a member of the ordinariate's Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Ottawa. "To me, and I know many others, patrimony is, in large part, defined by the Book of Common Prayer."

Freeman said he is pleased with the Mass they have been celebrating, and hopes "the new missal continues to include a great deal of the Prayer Book liturgy and language."

He said he recalled Pope Benedict saying something along the lines of, "We don't need a group who simply sing better than their Catholic brethren, and who stay in Church for the entire service, we want the reverence that was imparted in traditional Anglican liturgy."

Father Doug Hayman, rector of Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish, said he is happy with the ordinariate form of the Mass. "It has taken some growing into, but it is full and rich: fully Catholic, yet certainly bearing the Anglican flavour."

"Years ago in the Anglican context, someone had remarked that, the Book of Alternative Services was easy to access, but then there really wasn't anything more to grow into; whereas the Book of Common Prayer took a little more work to enter into, but thereafter one might spend a lifetime seeking to exhaust its riches," Father Hayman said. "Divine Worship feels like the latter: something into which one may spend a fruitful lifetime growing."

Read the whole article at:

Thursday 12 November 2015

OUTREACH - Aid to the Church in Need

STM gives 10% of offerings to the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter for mission and outreach. We do not take up second collections for various other good works but we do call people’s attention to Catholic charities from time to time.  

Through the new year, beginning in Advent, we will be encouraging donations to ACN, a worthy charity which is supporting Christians in the Middle East who are being systematically brutalized, killed and forced out as refugees. There has been very limited press coverage of their suffering. 

It is our hope that many of the 25,000 Syrians reportedly coming to Canada will be from this persecuted minority – our brothers and sisters in Christ who are in great need.

Here is a recent article describing the situation in one Syrian community. 
Archbishop Selwanos Boutros Alnemeh of Homs - Praying for Peace - ACN photo

Thousands of Syrian Christians are fleeing  ISIS assault

Friday, November 6, 2015

"We are afraid that ISIS - - which God will hopefully prevent - - will conquer the town. We would lose the center of Christianity in our diocese."

By Oliver Maksan

NEW YORK—Thousands of Syrian Christians are fleeing after fierce attacks by ISIS on the town of Sadad and its surroundings, reported Syrian Orthodox Archbishop Selwanos Boutros Alnemeh of Homs. Sadad is some 35 miles south of Homs and 65 miles north east of the Syrian capital of Damascus. The region has been under attack by ISIS since late last month.

The prelate told international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that Maheen, a town just four miles from Sadad, has already fallen to the jihadists. He also said that the inhabitants of Sadad and Al-Hafar had fled out of fear that ISIS would advance even further and to escape the heavy fire. 

According to the archbishop, almost 15,000 people have since left their homes and sought refuge in Homs, Zaidal and Fairouzeh. He reported that Sadad is still endangered, despite the presence of Syrian government forces. “We are afraid that ISIS—which God will hopefully prevent—will conquer the town. We would lose the center of Christianity in our diocese,” Archbishop Selwanos said. Two years ago jihadist held the town for a brief spell, killing at least 45 Christians, and destroying churches and homes.

Tuesday 10 November 2015

Purgatory - Encouragement on the Journey

Homily                                          STM, Toronto - November 8, 2015

“. . . how can we know the way? Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” John 14

Today we celebrate Mass as a Requiem for all souls and especially for those who have died in the service of our country. It is the culmination of what was once referred to as the “second Triduum” in the liturgical calendar, the Triduum of All Saints, which includes the Vigil of All Saints, the Solemnity of All Saints, and the Commemoration of All Souls. This is now extended, by custom in the Commonwealth, to Remembrance Day and the preceding week.

This deeply spiritual tradition traces its roots to the Israelites, as we can see in a passage from the 2nd Book of Maccabees in which we are told that Judas Maccabeus, having discovered amulets on his dead soldiers after a battle, “took up a collection, man by man, to the  amount  of  two thousand drachmas of  silver,  and sent  it  to  Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. ”

Christians from the earliest days have had a strong sense of solidarity, not only with the dead who are now saints in heaven, but also with the dead who are still in need of a final purification (most of us) before they enter the glory of heaven, the vision of God.

In fact, praying for the dead clearly reveals  what heaven truly is — intimate union with God —and consequently the purification that is necessary for this divine union. We are not simply destined to be with God, but to live within the life of God, the Holy Trinity.  That is why Jesus taught us that we must be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect. It is impossible to see how the soul that is not perfect in virtue, and purity of heart, could possibly enter into the most intimate union and vision of Almighty God.
And yet, how many people leave this world in such a state of perfection?  We think of soldiers and others killed suddenly without the opportunity to be in a state of grace.

The Church has always taught that there is an intermediary condition between the total imperfection and ultimate isolation that is not the place but the state of hell, and the total perfection that heaven requires. This is because the Church believes and proclaims both the justice and the mercy of God.
To assume that sinners who are sorry for their sins, but who escape the justice of this world for their sins, would simply be immediately purified by God’s merciful forgiveness, without a process of accounting and purification, surely undermines not only belief in the reality of divine justice, but any rationale for justice in this world as well.

How could it be that soldiers and others who underwent tremendous suffering for family and nation, and those innocents who endured suffering caused by the injustice and the evil of this world, would be blessed less than those who have escaped both the justice of this world and, by God’s mercy, the justice and purification in the world to come?

So it is that the Church definitively teaches that baptized souls who have not apostatized and do not undergo perfect purification for their sins in this world may receive purification in the intermediate state the Church has traditionally named Purgatory (a politically incorrect term in our day).
The Church further teaches that, because of the communion of saints, which all Christians share in, the spiritual merits of all the saints in heaven may be shared with us who are still on the journey. This is a great assistance and comfort for us on earth and for those who have gone before us but are not yet in the state of perfection necessary to enter into the divine embrace and perfect communion of God, the Holy Trinity.

We share these merits through our prayers and sacrifices, masses and requiems not only at this time but throughout the year.

Purgatory, then, is an infallible teaching of the Catholic Church, and praying for the dead is taught by the Church to be a spiritual practice in keeping with that doctrine, and with the mutual love and communion of the faithful.

In a culture in which funerals are often virtual canonizations of the deceased, declaring that the dead person is already an angel in heaven and implying that we are praying TO that deceased person rather than for that person’s soul, the Church’s teaching about the last things: Sin, Death, Heaven and Hell along with the encouraging doctrine of Purgatory are even more important.
Catholic and Orthodox Christians who regularly pray for their dead will almost certainly remain more mindful of, and so closer to their deceased loved ones than others who assume these dead are immediately in Heaven after death. This remembrance of love also strengthens our own faith and hope on the earthly pilgrimage.

Finally, praying for the dead keeps our focus on eternity, on the goal of human existence. Praying for the departed keeps our mortality before our minds in a spiritually healthy way.  In so doing we are helped to be mentally focused on what really matters in this life.
May we who pray for the dead today be blessed with devout friends and relatives who will perform this spiritual duty for us when we finally pass from this world.

“. . . how can we know the way? Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” John 14


Celebrant:   Death has been conquered in Jesus Christ. As the Redeemed People of God, we therefore intercede confidently for the living and the dead saying: Lord, have mercy.

Reading of the names of those commemorated.

Jesus Christ is Risen! May the Church proclaim his victory over death with confidence, fidelity, and joy; we pray to the Lord ...

The eternal banquet of life has been prepared! May God, the Holy Spirit continually inspire us to pray for all those who have given their lives for the freedom of our country and the world; we pray to the Lord...

For all souls in Purgatory; we pray to the Lord...

May all children who have died by miscarriage, stillbirth or abortion be carried to the joys of heaven, we pray to the Lord...

The souls of the just are in the hand of God. May all who have died in the peace of Christ find eternal life through the resurrection of our Lord in the communion of saints, we pray to the Lord...


Eternal God
Who frees the human family
From the dominion of the grave.
Hear our prayers,
Fill us with joy
And with the hope of life eternal.
We ask this through Christ our Risen Lord. Amen.

Penitential Rite follows.