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Friday 27 May 2016

Spiritual roots of hope for Mexico

Jean Ko Din writes about the spiritual roots of change in Mexico. Excerpts follow:

Mexico is ready for social change. The problem is that no one can agree on where to start, said Miguel Alvarez Gandara.
“All these explanations of the Mexican situation, in my opinion, all of them are part of the complete diagnosis of human rights,” said Gandara, an expert in peace meditation. “The problem is that in Mexico, every group is acting towards its own diagnosis.”

Earlier this month, Gandara visited Toronto to talk to the Jesuit Forum for Social Faith and Justice.

“Some say that the Mexican state is so corrupted with so much juridical fiction that it is not a state of law, it is not a state of justice. It’s just a general condition where the powerful benefit from the minority,” he said. “For another, this is a criminal state linked with organized crime. Some will call it a narco state.”

Others believe the main crisis in Mexico lies in security, with the Mexican army holding sway over local communities and local affairs.
Some believe the growing income gap has fuelled the growth of organized crime. 

Gandara said organized crime is so strongly linked with individuals in government and in communities it is very difficult to contain its spread . . . the Mexican people are frustrated, yet the government consistently denies the reality of the situation. 

In March, the Inter-American Human Rights Commission released a report that said Mexico is suffering a “serious crisis of violence and impunity.” The report said the Mexican government has systemically failed to investigate crimes that have led to torture and the disappearance and killings of more than 30,000 people as of 2015.

“(The Mexican government) is not accepting the fact of that explanation. They say that they did not generalize, instead they focused on the isolated incidents,” said Gandara. “The truth is that because of the violence of the war against crimes, we as a country have the surprise of receiving what is now the centralizing of all victims.”

Gandara said that in anticipation of the upcoming Three Amigos summit on June 29, when leaders from Canada, the United States and Mexico will meet, it is important that Canadians gain a better understanding of the crisis that Mexico is currently facing.
Gandara has more than 40 years of experience in peace mediation in Mexico. He is president of SERAPAZ (Service and Advising for Peace), a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing peaceful resolutions to social struggles in Mexico.

He said that when Pope Francis visited Mexico in February, it was a phenomenon because everyone wanted the Holy Father to say something that supported their cause and their agenda.

“There was a preparation for the battle for the Pope,” said Gandara. “But he was so smart... He didn’t say the phrases that we were needing but he left us a package of wonders of hope. Now the media has forgotten the Pope, but the churches are working with the gift the Pope gave the Mexican people.”

Gandara is hopeful about the future. Social movements are rising up everywhere in the country and the people are letting it be known they are very aware of the corruption in the country.

Full article in the May 27 edition of THE CATHOLIC REGISTER

A Homily for the Feast of St. Philip Neri


Holy Family Parish, Toronto
May 26, 2016

“ Jesus said to his disciples: Let your loins be girt and you yourselves, like men who wait for their Lord.”    Luke 12: 35

As your guest this evening may I first thank Fr. Robinson and the Fathers of the Oratory very much for their kind invitation. 

The readings and prayers for this Feast of St. Philip Neri point us to two aspects of the universal Church’s teaching which we need so much to consider in the world today if we are to be like those who, as our text says, “wait for their lord”.  These two aspects of Christian life are expressed and highlighted in the worship of the universal Church.

The first is the gift of “Wisdom.”  We read on this feast the Book of Wisdom:
“I called and the spirit of wisdom came upon me.”  Wisdom here means the gift of God to those who ask in prayer, not some worldly wisdom but rather what was called in the English spiritual tradition “ghostly wisdom.”

Secondly “Glory.” Glory is the context into which God has called St. Philip. That which is glorious is of eternal worth.  In the words of the Collect we pray:  “O God who didst exalt blessed Philip thy confessor  with thy saints in glory.”   And the Collect continues to ask that we may profit by the example of his virtues; one of which is, of course, the gift of wisdom.  Wisdom and glory are expressed in the various rites, languages and uses of the Catholic Church, perhaps in none more so than in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass we celebrate this evening.

Before we continue to consider some aspects of the connection between wisdom and glory in the lives of St. Philip Neri and of Blessed John Henry Newman, I thought that I should, as a visitor, tell you two things about myself and my work.
A wedding at Holy Family
First, I am a priest of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter and I serve the small parish of St. Thomas More which came into being in 2012 under the provisions made in Anglicanorum Coetibus, that is the Apostolic Constitution promulgated by Pope Benedict XVI welcoming Anglicans, Protestants and others who affirm the Catholic Faith as set forth in the Catechism of the Catholic Church into full communion with the Holy See.

Over the past four years, the people of STM have gathered for Sung Mass on Sundays and Solemnities at Sacré-Coeur Church in downtown Toronto thanks to the kind hospitality of Cardinal Collins. Many of us in the Ordinariate are former Anglican clergy and laity and, increasingly, we welcome Protestants of various traditions who have been, or are now, in the process of being received into the full communion of the Catholic Church.

In my case, like many priests of the Ordinariate, I was granted dispensation from the rule of celibacy by the Holy Father in order to be ordained Deacon by Cardinal Collins and later priest by Archbishop Prendergast of Ottawa. 

Naturally, those of us at the parish of STM are very grateful to Pope Benedict whose vision and wisdom brought about this dramatic first movement for the healing of the Reformation rift.  “Groups of Anglicans” as the Apostolic Constitution calls us -- Anglicanorum Coetibus – are groups who have been received around the world along with our traditions of liturgy, choral music, pastoral care and patristic theology which are consonant with the teachings of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. 

These aspects of patrimony are now beautifully expressed in the Ordinariate’s new missal entitled DIVINE WORSHIP recently approved for worldwide use by the Holy See, to the greater glory of God.  The DIVINE WORSHIP missal is commended to the Church for use as a part of the Latin Rite just as the Ordinary Form is and now again in recent years the more ancient usage of the Extraordinary Form, which we are privileged to celebrate this evening.

As we know, there are various forms of worship which seek to communicate the wisdom of God even as they reflect the divine glory.  The many Eastern Rite churches in full communion with Rome use various languages and distinctive ceremonial.  The Ordinariate Mass looks very similar to the ceremonial of the Solemn Mass we celebrate this evening, ad orientem or eastward facing and with the traditional ceremonial of the Western or Latin Rite of the Church. 

Secondly, I should tell you that I am a Catholic chaplain for the Princess Margaret, Toronto Western and and Sick Childrens’ hospitals in downtown Toronto where  I encounter and anoint many at all stages of life.

These two biographical notes may explain some of the language and idioms I employ this evening. So, we continue to consider together the wisdom and glory of God as expressed in the Catholic faith and as manifested in St. Philip Neri whose life of prayer, pastoral care, educational concerns and inspirational service to God and humanity reflect both the wisdom and the glory of God.

Wisdom and glory are central elements of the Catholic Faith so much so that the very words are spoken and sung repeatedly throughout the readings and prayers of the Church’s liturgy especially in these days following the Feast of the Ascension. Glory is the reflected wisdom of God; and wisdom is the glory of man fully alive to the love of God.

Wisdom and glory are in this sense welded together in the life of St. Philip Neri.  The Collect prayer for his feast has us pray: “O God, who didst exalt blessed Philip, Thy Confessor, with Thy saints in glory: mercifully grant that, we who rejoice in his festival may profit by the example of his virtues.”

Principle amongst St. Philip’s virtues was the gift of holy wisdom. Spiritual wisdom is the gift of God for discerning the ways of God and applying them to the salvation of souls. We might say that this is the wisdom at the very heart of human living in which the sacred Heart of Christ speaks to our hearts. This holy wisdom relates directly to the hope which is given to humanity in Jesus Christ, the incarnate wisdom of God who interprets the meaning of our human lives in and through our relationship with the divine glory of God. 

The Holy Ghost given to the Church after the Ascension of Christ is the power of wisdom guiding the corporate life of Christians into the unity for which Jesus prays: “That they all may be one.” Guided by the Holy Ghost the thoughts and actions of the truly wise, from the simple apostolic fishermen who followed Jesus to the luminous theologians like Pope Benedict XVI speak to the hearts of sincere Christians about how we are to live together before God.

Blessed John Henry Newman following the example of St. Philip Neri was, like St. Philip, concerned for the education of the whole person: spiritually, intellectually and socially.  This integrated approach to the education of individuals was, as they both clearly believed, for the glory of God and was dependent upon the virtue of wisdom which is a reflection of the will of God in the souls of the faithful.

Newman, since his days at Oxford had advocated the nurturing of students in faith and morals as well as in the pursuit of knowledge. The personal commitment of teachers to their students and devotion to the needs of each student as a whole person is highlighted in Newman’s work Idea of a University. Scholars have said Newman found these principles mirrored most fully and remarkably in the life and wisdom of St. Philip Neri.
Low Mass at Holy Family
In 1955 Professor Culler in his consideration of St. Philip and Blessed John Henry Newman pointed to the important truth that in St. Philip, Newman saw the realization of his own educational and pastoral ideal.  Both men were deeply ascetical with regard to the prayer and discipline of the Church, and were committed to the sacramental life, to the ministry of the confessional and to individual counsel and instruction in pursuit of wisdom.

All of these aspects of St. Philip’s life are seen in relation to and undergirded by a community of Catholic liturgical celebration and social intercourse, which was really  a dialogue with culture as we might say today.

True wisdom, in this sense, is in the discernment of what is valuable to the City of God in the midst of the Earthly City as St. Philip, the Apostle of Rome, so powerfully and joyfully exemplified in his pastoral encounters with people at all levels of society.

Newman, like St Philip, fused devotion with dogma.  The life of prayer and ascetical discipline was at one with the doctrine – the magisterial teaching of the Church. This wisdom was the model of faith and practice which St. Philip saluted, we are told, when he encountered students at the Venerable English College in Rome. Upon seeing these English seminarians coming out the gate across from his own residence he would shout to them:  “Hail the flower of the martyrs!”  This was, of course, in reference to the sacrifices for the Faith of the priests who faced great peril having gone to England to minister to faithful Catholics during the persecutions of the sixteenth century.

In hospital ministry, I have seen that the realities of “wisdom” and “glory” proclaimed and embodied by the Church as the Body of Christ, can be a focus for those struggling with the many questions that surround pain, suffering and the end of life in a way which gives meaning to life at all stages. 

The reality of divine wisdom as it relates to the glory of God has much to say to patients and families as they face the very intense life challenges that illness brings.  Indeed we need the gift of wisdom and the hope of glory particularly as those who are gravely ill, along with the rest of society, seek to address the current and extremely important issue of care at the end of life while we struggle to honour all human life under the spectre of legislation that proposes to endorse assisted suicide.

The Catholic Church speaks clearly and distinctly about the sanctity of all human life.  This is an expression of wisdom, the gift of the Holy Ghost, guiding the bishops of the Church in proclaiming the unchanging Gospel to a society which seems to be possessed by a spirit of narrow and corrosive individualism, the very antithesis of the holy wisdom and the hope of glory.

The Church must respond to the idiocy of rampant choice-obsessed individualism – and I use the term ‘idiocy’ advisedly: idiot meaning one fixated upon oneself and, we might add, fixated upon one’s own choices to the exclusion of others. 

The Church, by contrast, offers what R.R. Reno described recently (First Things, May 2016) as living communities of obligation and commitment. He said, and I quote: “We need to provide atomized people with non-optional solidarity . . .  revitalizing the mediating layers of society.”

This was the wise vision of St. Philip for the Church of Rome in a society which, like our own, had become idiocentric, obsessed with materialism and entertainment.  St. Philip wisely pointed people back to a community of obligation and commitment, a community of mercy, hope and glory – the Catholic Church.

Archbishop Bernard Longley described St Philip and Cardinal Newman, as: "Wise, joyful and prayerful priests."  Their lives give glory to God by the wise application of their talents and their openness to the direction of the Holy Ghost.

May their prayers and example guide us in our lives.

“ Jesus said to his disciples: Let your loins be girt and you yourselves, like men who wait for their Lord.”   Luke 12: 35