This last blog post of the series is meant to just wrap up a few points. First of all, a big THANK YOU once again to Marco Iacobucci and his friends (Daniele, Francesco, Rita, and others whose names I sadly don’t remember…) for all they did for Father Stephen and me. As you can read [...]
This last blog post of the series is meant to just wrap up a few points.
First of all, a big THANK YOU once again to Marco Iacobucci and his friends (Daniele, Francesco, Rita, and others whose names I sadly don’t remember…) for all they did for Father Stephen and me. As you can read in my previous two posts, it was an incredible experience.
Next, for those who’d like to read Marco’s take on things, here are the posts he put on his own blog:
Oh, did I neglect to mention they were all written in Italian? Silly me… :-)
As for Father Stephen and myself, apart from the sense of hospitality that was clearly demonstrated to our benefit, we were very impressed by the sense of history that animates the people we met. For us in Canada, history often seems to be a subject that interests only the specialists. Trevi, on the other hand, is a town with a history that stretches at least 1500 years — and people know their history. Different people would drop casual remarks like “The main church bell was blessed in 1329″, or “The stones of this church were taken from those of the original cathedral, the remains of which can be found down the hill”, or “Pope Boniface VIII once stayed at this castle for a summer”. Heck, while getting dressed in the sacristy I came across a small display on the wall that listed the known original bishops of Trevi… from the years 487 to 1061! Honestly, back in Canada, hardly anyone would know these sorts of details, or think to casually post them on a bulletin board…
This attention to history, I think, was also part of why this visit was so special. Marco kept telling us how this was important to the people of Trevi, that people felt they were living a historical moment in the life of the town, and so on. Just look at the titles of Marco’s blog posts: “1000 year later”, or “A voyage in time”. His photos and videos were clearly not being made just as souvenirs, but to be part of a historical record.
So yes, this trip to Trevi wasn’t just about sightseeing. It was also to be neck-deep in history.
Of course, there’s no time like the present. Marco did share with me some of the challenges the people of Trevi face. Many of their ancestors would likely have been poor shepherds, following flocks of goats and cows as they grazed on the hillsides. The modernization of the Italian state did bring greater prosperity, but as there is even less industry for the area lots of people commute to Rome for work, with the youth often leaving and not coming back. Problems of alcohol and drug abuse also exist. I asked Marco about tourism — given Trevi’s so many treasures, why was this so underdeveloped? But as he said to me, Trevi has to compete with places like Rome and Florence for the foreign tourists, and with the beaches for the local tourists. How would such development even get started? I must admit, I did not have an answer for him.
There was one project that Marco did mention to me, though, that I would like to explore more. Marco suggested a partnership with Canada, perhaps with youth coming to visit Canada while Canadians could go to visit Trevi. Other forms of cooperation could also be thought up. I’m very open to that, and I hope Marco and I will be able to stay in touch and see where that might go. Once thing is for sure, though: even if no other Canadian ever goes, I’ll be back… Trevi nel Lazio, you’ve captured part of my heart!
In my previous post, I described the first day of the two-day trip Father Stephen Otvos and I made to Trevi nel Lazio, the site of my titular diocese. The adventure continued the next day, albeit not in Trevi but in the surrounding region. Father Stephen and I had a quick breakfast in the morning [...]
In my previous post, I described the first day of the two-day trip Father Stephen Otvos and I made to Trevi nel Lazio, the site of my titular diocese. The adventure continued the next day, albeit not in Trevi but in the surrounding region.
Father Stephen and I had a quick breakfast in the morning and then headed out around 10am. Our destination was the Shrine of the Holy Trinity in Vallepietra. This is quite an amazing little shrine, founded well over 1000 years ago as a monastery of Byzantine monks who were probably refugees from some persecution in the Eastern Roman Empire (some say as much as 1500 years ago). They basically set themselves up in a cave high up on the cliffs. One of the remaining frescos from the era of these monks is this one of the Holy Trinity:
Western depictions of the Trinity from this era usually represented the Father as an older man, and the Son as a younger man (the Holy Spirit was usually another image, like a dove). Easterners, on the other hand, tended to depict the Trinity as 3 similar beings, which is one reason why it is believed this is a Byzantine-inspired icon.
Now when I say those monks set themselves up in the cliffs, I wasn’t kidding. Here is the cliff, with a view of the valley below:
We were supposed to meet Father Alberto (the parish priest of Trevi and rector of this shrine) but we underestimated the time it would take to get there. End result: instead of celebrating mass with him at 11am, I got the job for the noon mass! Here is the altar where it took place:
All these photos don’t really do the site justice, mind you, so here is a small video I did to put it all in perspective:
After a delicious lunch with the priests ministering at the shrine, we headed on our way. Next stop: Subiaco, resting place of Saint Benedict, founder of one of the most important monastic traditions and arguably one of the key figures of Western civilization.
The is the monastery built over the grotto where Saint Benedict lived for a time:
This is the grotto itself:
After visiting the first monastery, we headed down to the monastery of Saint Scholastica (named after Saint Benedict’s sister), which is actually the older of the two.
We took a guided tour of the monastery, although it was interrupted when the Abbot showed up. He had heard there was a visiting bishop, so he took some time to visit with us.
And that was it! We were all pretty beat by that point, so the car ride home was fairly quiet. Still, there was one surprise left for us. When we got back to Rome, Father Stephen and I wanted to offer Marco some money for the gas and accommodation expenses that would have been incurred (and gas, I might add, is pretty expensive in Italy). But he refused, explaining that a collection had actually up among some of the townsfolk of Trevi, to split the costs between them. We were their guests, all the way.
As Marco drove off, Father Stephen and I were left exhausted but awestruck. What an incredible weekend, marked first and foremost by a sense of hospitality that people rarely if ever get a chance to experience. There was no doubt about it — we had been blessed, pure and simple.
Last year, as I was preparing for my ordination to the episcopate, I wrote a blog post entitled Introducing my diocese. In that post I explained what it means for an auxiliary bishop to have a titular diocese, and how lucky I was to have one with some people still in it! I mentioned that [...]
Last year, as I was preparing for my ordination to the episcopate, I wrote a blog post entitled Introducing my diocese. In that post I explained what it means for an auxiliary bishop to have a titular diocese, and how lucky I was to have one with some people still in it! I mentioned that I hoped to visit the place the next time I was in Italy.
Well, I’m in Italy now, on my last full day before I return to Canada. And yes, during this time I had a chance to visit Trevi… and what a trip it was!
The story begins when I was contacted in April 5, 2012, by Marco Iacobucci, a young photographer living in Rome who grew up in Trevi nel Lazio. He had recently started a blog for his home town, and had gone on the Internet to try and find articles he could link to. Imagine his surprise to discover that there was now a bishop with Trevi as the titular see! So he wrote to me, wanting to interview me for the blog. I responded that I would be in Italy in the month of July, so instead of an email interview why not meet in person? This set the wheels in motion.
I got to Italy on June 26, but was initially occupied with the events surrounding the pallium ceremony for Archbishop Christian Lépine. Still, Marco and I did arrange for a meeting in Rome the next week for lunch. As it turns out, he didn’t come alone!
From left to right: Francesco, myself, Marco, and Daniele.
This small delegation, to my surprise, brought presents from Trevi: some books on the town, and some agricultural products (wine, olives, honey… that sort of thing). I was very touched. Over lunch we made plans for me to visit Trevi over a weekend, settling on July 14-15 as the dates, as my good friend Father Stephen Otvos would also be present and I hoped to share this kind of unique experience with someone else as well.
On July 14, Marco came to pick Father Stephen and I up in the morning. There was very little traffic heading out of Rome (the advantage of an early Saturday morning, I suppose), so we made it to the Simbruini mountains in good time. It felt like a summer drive through the Laurentians, and it turns out that Pope John Paul II spend some vacation time here at one point, climbing the mountain peaks in his younger days. The town itself was very picturesque:
After dropping our bags off at the B&B where we would be staying, we headed on to the town proper. Like a lot of old European towns, Trevi was build with a castle at the top of a hill, and was surrounded by a town wall. Over time the town outgrew the limits of the walls, meaning that the “town gates” are actually within the town itself, separating the medieval central portion from the later portion. Our first stop was to these gates. However, as we got closer Marco hinted that a surprise would be waiting for us:
Yes, my friends, they were ringing the town bells for us. We were met at the gates by the mayor, as well as some other representatives of the town, and into the medieval portion. A small crowd was gathered there as well, as it had been announced in the local newspaper that we’d be coming:
The parish church, as it turned out, was not far from the gates, so we headed there first. Once again, there was some fanfare as we arrived:
Father Stephen and I were then given a tour of the interior, and had a chance to head up to the organ loft as well.
The organ itself is a magnificent instrument, having been recently restored. It is now used for concerts, as part of the promotion of the cultural life of the region.
Now while the parish is dedicated to the Assumption of Mary, the patron saint of Trevi is actually Saint Peter the Hermit, a holy preacher who died around 1050 A.D. at the age of 25. The basement of the church is a shrine dedicated to him, and contains his relics. The first photo is of an altar reliquary containing his bones, the second photo is of a portable reliquary containing his vestments, and the third photo is a reliquary bust containing his skull, which is carried in procession on his feast day (August 30).
It turns out that Saint Peter is also buried in Trevi, so after visiting the parish church, we headed to his shrine. Father Stephen and I went downstairs to pray at the place where he died:
There is very little about Saint Peter on the Internet, as far as I can tell (hmmm… I think a Wikipedia article will someday be in order). Still, despite the fact that he lived almost 1000 years ago, the people here are clearly very proud of “their” saint. One person explained it to me this way: “Saint Peter preached and did a lot of miracles. He died very young, but the people were convinced of his holiness, so the town canonized him and started to celebrate his feast. Eventually the Pope recognized he was a saint.” Not quite the way we do things today, but what a great description!
After all this visiting it was time for lunch. We headed over to a small restaurant that serves local cuisine, and tried a bit of everything.
As it turned out, we were going to need our strength, because the next stop (after a walk though the medieval section) was the castle at the centre of town.
We were given a guided tour of the interior of the castle, which includes an exhibit dedicated to the archeology of the area. The earliest records we have of Trevi are from the Roman era, as the Romans had an aqueduct that started in Trevi and flowed all the way to Rome. However, excavations in nearby caves have shown that human have lived in the Trevi region all that way to the early iron age, at least.
The conclusion of our tour was, of course, a trip to the top of the tower, to take in the view.
The valley as it heads up into the mountains:
The valley as it heads down to the plains and the coast:
By this point the afternoon was wearing on, so we headed to one more site before the parish mass that evening. A common practice in former days was to establish roadside shrines so that travellers would have a place to stop and rest. We visited one such shrine, and took in the frescos decorating it:
As much as I liked this visit, I must admit I was anxious to get back to the parish church for mass. I wish I could say it was because I’m particularly pious, but in all honesty it was because I was particularly nervous. You see, I was to be the presider. And yes, the mass was to be in Italian — a first for me! So we got to the sacristy early, giving me a chance to go over the mass texts so as to get the pronunciation right:
The pastor, which is also rector of a major shrine nearby (and vicar general of the diocese to boot!) showed up shortly before the mass was to start, and we had a chance to exchange a few words:
And then, it was mass!
It turns out our coming for the liturgy had also been announced in town bulletins, so the parish was quite full that evening:
While we headed to the sacristy afterwards, as is the local custom, many people came in to greet us. We had to change quickly, mind you, because we had also been invited to visit with the local confraternity (a kind of local charity often found in parishes throughout Italy).
The confraternity members described their work and gave us some of their literature. It was a real treat to visit with them.
Can you believe this was all in just one day? And yes, we were beat by the end of it. This fatigue wasn’t just physical, but mental, as no one we met from the town (apart from Marco himself) spoke any English. It was a great chance for me to practice, but by the end of the day my brain couldn’t process it anymore! Marco very graciously drove us back to the B&B where we were staying, and after a final meeting with a parishioner and a couple of sisters Father Stephen and I started to share on the amazing experience we had just lived. We hit the hay early, because this was just day 1 of our two-day adventure…
It has been a while since I wrote a true blog post. Blame it on confirmation season: I was busy enough with my usual work, and when the post-Easter schedule of confirmation celebrations took off, that was it (although Twitter and Facebook updates did continue). Please don’t misunderstand, I absolutely loved doing confirmations, but it [...]
It has been a while since I wrote a true blog post. Blame it on confirmation season: I was busy enough with my usual work, and when the post-Easter schedule of confirmation celebrations took off, that was it (although Twitter and Facebook updates did continue). Please don’t misunderstand, I absolutely loved doing confirmations, but it did eat into the personal time required for this sort of writing.
In order to get back into the swing of things, I thought I might write a summary of the visit of the College of Consultors to Rome for the pallium ceremony on June 29. Of course, you may be wonder what the heck a pallium might be. This Wikipedia article does a pretty good job of covering the subject. In short, it is a special badge of office for a newly-appointed metropolitan archbishop, who goes to Rome to receive it during the mass of Saints Peter and Paul (June 29). Quebec had three bishops receiving the pallium this year, including my own archbishop, Christian Lépine. Each diocese used the occasion to invite others to come as part of a delegation, and I was part of the Montreal delegation.
We left on June 25 in the evening. As I have been doing a lot of travelling lately I went ahead and got a new credit card that gives access to certain travel benefits, such as priority check-in and free access to the airport lounge. They might not sound like much, but they do take some of the blah out of travelling. In particular, I managed to get a lot of work-related reading done in the lounge prior to boarding the plane, meaning I had less to do once I got the eternal city. Yes, I said work-related reading: this wasn’t yet vacation!
We got to Rome early on the 26th, and grabbed a cab to the Domus Carmelitana, the pilgrim residence where some members of the delegation (including those from the College of Consultors) were staying. The Domus is very comfortable, with a lovely terrassee, a decent breakfast, and (very important) air conditioning! The best part, though, was the service: both friendly and competent, an excellent combination. However, there were a few downsides: no lunch, no supper, and no chapel! We therefore set up a time for us to celebrate mass at the nearby Canadian College, and scoped out a few places for meals. In the end we wound up eating in the Borgo Pio almost every night, followed by a tasty gelato…
June 27 was a day of exploration, the calm before the storm you might say. As it turns out another member of our delegation was going in roughly the same direction as I was, so we turned it into a several-hour exploration of the old quarter of Rome. He had studied in Rome many years ago, so while he was acting as my tour guide it was also a bit of a trip down memory lane as well (we even visited the very same classroom he once studied in at the Gregorian University). On the way back we passed by the Trevi fountain, which I wanted to see in particular because my titular diocese is Trevi nel Lazio, i.e. it shares the same name.
June 28 was the day I completed my set of purple episcopal garb. Yes, my friends, I got a biretta. Pricey little things, they are, and a bit of a pain to fold up once they have been opened… That evening there was a special reception put on by the Délégation du Québec in honour of the three archbishops. It was very nice, and I had a chance to run into some Canadians living in Rome whom I had not seen in a long time.
June 29 was the big day, of course. I had to be at Saint Peter’s by 8:30 am, which means I left the Domus around 8, fully dressed in purple cassock, rochet, mozetta, and skullcap. Oh, and the biretta was also along for the ride. Did I mention that it was EXTREMELY hot in Rome that day? Even at 8 in the morning I was roasting. It didn’t help that I had absolutely NO CLUE where I was going. Yes, I knew where Saint Peter’s was (kinda hard to miss in Rome) but it is a big complex. Happily, I spotted two young priests in cassock and surplice walking with purpose of the right direction, so I figured I’d just follow them. When we got to the piazza in front of the basilica I asked them if they could point me to the door I was supposed to use (different groups of people were using different entrances), and thanks to them I was able to march past a few saluting Swiss Guards to find my way about three or four rows from the front. I wound up sitting next to (and having a great chat with) Bishop Peter Elliot of Australia, who literally wrote the book on being a master of ceremonies for the modern roman rite. He had his biretta too, and clearly wasn’t afraid to use it :-) I kept my eyes on him to know when I was supposed to put it on, and when to take it off…
After the ceremony I changed into my black-and-red cassock for an official reception hosted by the Canadian College, which was thoroughly enjoyable. The evening was another official reception, this time at the residence of the Canadian Ambassador to the Holy See. At both events I had a chance to connect with Canadians living and working in Rome, all of whom have been unfailingly welcoming and gracious to our little band of pilgrims.
The morning of June 30 the various pallium delegations had a private audience with Pope Benedict. Don’t be fooled by the word “private”, mind you — there were several hundred people in the Paul VI hall. Placed (relatively) up front, I had a chance to chat with many brother bishops from around the world: Lagos, Davao, Brisbane, Philadelphia, Denver, and so on. I did not get a chance to meet the Pope personally, but that should come in September when I return for the course for recently ordained bishops.
And then, suddenly, it was July! Sunday mass was celebrated at Trinita dei Monti, the French church run by the Fraternité monastique de Jérusalem (who also have a house in Montreal). We had a tour first, and it is quite an amazing place — it was a major centre of scientific discovery in its day, demonstrating that faith and science really can go together, especially in the Catholic tradition. The rest of the day we spend walking around (I had a chance to visit the Pantheon, as well as pray before the tombs of Saint Catherine of Siena and Blessed Fra’ Angelico). After catching up with a friend now living in Rome, the rest of the evening was quiet, as the nation mourned its terrible loss to Spain.
July 2 was the last event for the Montreal delegation. We got up early and set our for Saint Peter’s, where Archbishop Lépine presided mass at the tomb of Saint Peter himself. It was very moving to know the faith we were celebrating together was in perfect continuity with the faith for which Peter, the Rock, was martyred.
Part of the Montreal delegation began to leave in the days that followed. Those who remained each set their own pace. As for me, July 2 was also the day I started Italian lessons at the Leonardo Da Vinci school. Now people sometimes wonder why I would enroll in classes when I am supposed to be on vacation, but I have often done that. I find that there is no better way to immerse oneself in an environment than to learn the language. With the other students you also get the chance to discover people from all over, and we slowly form a community together. The staff of the school often also offer all kinds of mundane assistance, which helps make the experience (and culture shock) that much easier.
I used part of my time in Rome during this week to get to know some of the various curial offices. In particular, I had a meeting with Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops. He was once my professor, and given his new role (as well as my own) I wanted to see what advice he might have for me. I appreciated his warm welcome, and the sharing of his perspective on the role of the bishop in our post-modern world. I also had a very nice meeting with Cardinal Koch of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, as well as members of his staff. I had visited this Council back when I was Chairman of the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism, so I was glad to be back and to visit a friend I made back then who still works at the Council.
July 5 was a very special day for me, because I met up with a small delegation from my titular see, Trevi nel Lazio. There is a fellow named Marco who lives in Rome but who is originally from Trevi, who had contacted me some weeks back to interview me for the town website. When I mentioned I was coming to Rome we made sure to set a date for lunch, and he showed up with two others in tow! It turns out that, while the diocese of Treba (the original name) was suppressed back in the 11th century, the people of the village never forgot that they had once had their own bishop. After Vatican II they petitioned to have it restored as a titular see, and there have been 3 bishops since then (yours truly included). My immediate predecessor was a Polish bishop, and the town had contacted him as well and established an exchange with his diocese in Poland (people visiting him there, Poles coming to visit Trevi). This little delegation expressed great pride in their history, and invited me to come and visit for a weekend. So, I’m going! We have it set up for July 13-15.
July 6 was the day when the rest of the diocesan delegation left for Canada. We ate breakfast together and said our goodbyes, and then they jumped in a cab for the airport. As for me, I packed my bags and walked over to the Casa Paulo VI on Via della Scrofa, between the Pantheon and the Piazza Navona, which is where I am staying for the rest of my stay in Rome. I already have some new adventures planned, and will be joined soon by a brother priest for a couple of weeks of vacation. Language classes will continue as well, and I’m looking forward to getting to know the people who live at the Casa. Stay tuned for more!
I know, I know… how could I possibly have put up a more snooze-inducing title that this one? “Ad hoc sub-committee”? YAWN! And yet, this is part of being a bishop — there are a lot of meetings to go to for various committees and sub-committees. But don’t let the titles fool you: sometimes those [...]
I know, I know… how could I possibly have put up a more snooze-inducing title that this one? “Ad hoc sub-committee”? YAWN! And yet, this is part of being a bishop — there are a lot of meetings to go to for various committees and sub-committees. But don’t let the titles fool you: sometimes those committees, while having bureaucratic sounding names, actually reveal really interesting things. For instance…
Not long after the plenary meeting of the AECQ back in September, I got named to the Committee for Missions. This is composed of bishops, priests, and lay persons, and has the responsibility to promote a missionnary spirit in the church of Quebec. However, given that we are finding ourselves increasingly on the *receiving* end of the missionary drive of the Church, this committee is also responsible to examine how we welcome and integrate foreign priests into this province. Given that my previous experience in the Office for Pastoral Personnel at the Archdiocese of Montreal was precisely in this domain, it was a natural fit.
At my first meeting of the committee, it was agreed that the 2001 provincial guidelines for the welcoming and integration of foreign priests should be updated. A sub-committee was formed, and I was assigned to it. Our first meeting was today.
Now while this may not seem terribly exciting — after all, it’s just a document — a lot of good could, in fact, come from this. For example, we examined creating a structure that would make it easier for dioceses to have their priests receive higher education, and at the same time protect them from pressures to remain in Canada (such as from family back home). Upon returning to their countries, they would be sources of education and training for others. To be honest, this is kind of a dream of mine: imagine using our resources in this way to help built up the faculty of a new university somewhere in the developing world?
No bishop is an island. Bishops are joined together in a group called the “College of Bishops”, an international network joined by faith, brotherhood and a common mission. Today’s meeting wasn’t just about redoing documents: it is about finding a way to work together for the common good of the Church and, by extension, of humanity.
Shortly after having been called to be a bishop I received a copy of the Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops. One of the recommendations made in that document (see paragraph 46) was that the bishop take time each month for prayer and recollection. I’ve been trying to apply that suggestion, despite all the [...]
Shortly after having been called to be a bishop I received a copy of the Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops. One of the recommendations made in that document (see paragraph 46) was that the bishop take time each month for prayer and recollection. I’ve been trying to apply that suggestion, despite all the work on my desk, because I think it is important in order to keep connected with the Lord.
So what is a “day of recollection”, you ask? More and more we hear of employees taking a “mental health day” from work, just to get a break from the hustle and bustle. Well, for me this was a “spiritual health day”, in which I rested, read, meditated, went to confession, spent time before the Blessed Sacrament, prayed Vespers in community, and shared with a couple of brother priests on our life and ministry. Oh, I should also mention the excellent supper we shared — never underestimate the renewing power of a good meal! :-)
Can I afford to take time out from all the expectations I face to have a day of recollection? Anyone judging with the standards of the world would take one look at my task list and say “Absolutely not!” I certainly feel that temptation myself. But looking at it from the standards of the Lord, and what it means to be a bishop, can I afford to NOT take a day of recollection? After all, he’s still the one in charge, and I owe it to him (and to the people of God) to stay in tune with his will.
This evening I had the honour and pleasure of presiding my very first diaconal ordination. A few weeks ago I got a call from the local Franciscan superior, asking me if I’d accept to preside the ordination of Brother Pierre Charland as a deacon. At the time I wasn’t even yet a bishop, just a [...]
This evening I had the honour and pleasure of presiding my very first diaconal ordination. A few weeks ago I got a call from the local Franciscan superior, asking me if I’d accept to preside the ordination of Brother Pierre Charland as a deacon. At the time I wasn’t even yet a bishop, just a bishop-elect, so I was quite surprised and honoured! Of course, I had to speak to Cardinal Turcotte first about it, and I remember his reaction: “they are getting you to start early!”. Well, why not!
The ceremony was in Saint Francis of Assisi parish, in a part of town called Park Extension (Park-Ex for us Montrealers). The Franciscans live in the rectory next door and animate the spiritual life of the parish community, while the episcopal vicar takes care of the administration in conjunction with a local council of churchwardens. I have presided liturgies in this parish in the past, one time even doing so on Easter Vigil, so it was nice to be back. The parish itself possesses an amazing blend of cultures, with people coming to pray in English, French, Spanish, Tamil and Vietnamese (not to mention the Greek Orthodox in the parish church next door). Representatives of many cultural groups were present at the ceremony, and of course the Franciscan themselves were out in full force. All in all, it was a true moment of grace.
I’ll post some pictures once I have some available. In the meantime, congratulations Deacon Pierre Charland!
This evening I was out for supper in Chinatown with a brother priest, sharing on his vision of his future ministry. Our conversation led us to discuss an important Catholic ministry in Montreal, the Maison du Père, a centre for homeless men. As the Maison du Père is no more that 10 minutes away on [...]
This evening I was out for supper in Chinatown with a brother priest, sharing on his vision of his future ministry. Our conversation led us to discuss an important Catholic ministry in Montreal, the Maison du Père, a centre for homeless men. As the Maison du Père is no more that 10 minutes away on foot, we decided to walk over so I could show him at least where it could be found.
When we arrived at the Maison du Père we found the doors closed, as they had already shut down for the night. We decided to take a chance and went over the the house of the Trinitarians, who are the religious order that runs the Maison du Père, and simply rang at the door. We were greeted by Brother Marc, who let us in and introduced us to a couple of other people in the house. Normally they don’t let strangers into their home, but I guess my Roman collar and pectoral cross put him at ease. Now our goal wasn’t to make a detailed visit of the homeless shelter, but simply to introduce ourselves to the Trinitarians so that the brother priest with me could discover the work done there in more detail. Brother Marc, however, was a man clearly proud of his many years of service at the Maison, and so he proceeded to give us the grand tour.
In a word, the Maison du Père is a truly impressive work of charity. The homeless are a very special population to be called to serve, and with regard to typical social services they often fall through the cracks. For example, social assistance is usually distributed in the form of cheques — but how can you receive a cheque if you don’t have an address? The Maison du Père therefore operates a set of mailboxes, so that someone trying to change his situation can receive essential correspondence.
We had a chance to chat with a couple of the temporary residents at the Maison du Père, but not too much — there was a hockey game on that night, so all conversations had to happen between periods! By the time our visit was over it was getting quite late, so we called it a night and headed back to the local parish rectory where I had parked my car. Once again, I love how God’s providence never ceases to surprise: a nice dinner between brother priests wound up becoming a further glimpse into the charity of the Kingdom of God.
I’ve already written about my shifting of my e-presence to other media, but I’ll still a person occupying time and space (I’m not 100% virtual)! My new role means I’ve had to move office locations too, and try to get set up in that respect. I must confess, I can’t stand moving. I am sure [...]
I’ve already written about my shifting of my e-presence to other media, but I’ll still a person occupying time and space (I’m not 100% virtual)! My new role means I’ve had to move office locations too, and try to get set up in that respect.
I must confess, I can’t stand moving. I am sure plenty of blog readers are with me on that. In my case, I don’t have to move my residence, just my office — but even that is quite enough! Thankfully, many amazing people have stepped up to give me a hand, with both the big stuff (furniture) and the little stuff (where to put the pens and post-it notes).
Of course, one of the positive sides to moving is you get a chance to take a look at all the stuff you’ve accumulated to see what you need to keep and what you can scrap. I’ve got myself a shredder and I’m not afraid to use it :-) so now what I need to do is run through the archives and decide what has past its best-before date. The sort of review process doubles as a good training exercise as well, especially for someone like me who is starting in a new role.
Finally, one of the fun sides of moving is the chance to put stuff up on your walls! A friend gave me an icon of Christ, the Good Shepherd, which I look forward to finding a place for, as a constant reminder of who the *real* shepherd is.
As those who know me are already aware, I have been involved in the ecumenical movement for many years. When my election to the episcopate was announced, I received many messages of congratulations from non-Catholics as well, which touched me deeply. During the time of preparation for the ordination the Montreal Commandery of the Order [...]
As those who know me are already aware, I have been involved in the ecumenical movement for many years. When my election to the episcopate was announced, I received many messages of congratulations from non-Catholics as well, which touched me deeply. During the time of preparation for the ordination the Montreal Commandery of the Order of Saint Lazarus offered to host a celebratory evening, which then evolved into the idea of organizing and hosting an ecumenical vespers service. The Liturgy of the Hours is, of course, a form of prayer common to many Christian traditions, and often provides an occasion for common prayer at major ecumenical summits or gatherings. It seemed perfect.
The event was held on Sunday, October 2, in Saint John the Evangelist Anglican Church here in Montreal, following an adapted order of service for Anglican evensong (this particular building, very well-known here in Montreal, is the official chapel of the Order of Saint Lazarus in this city). Clergy were present from multiple denominations (I counted at least representatives from the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Orthodox traditions), as well as members from other orders of knighthood, including the Order of Saint John, the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, the Order of Malta, and a couple of recipients of the Order of Saint Gregory.
Yours truly had a chance to preach the sermon, in which I had a chance to offer my “ecumenical vision”. To be honest, I didn’t have anything new to say: my vision is exactly that of Vatican II, as found in the document Unitatis Redintegratio. Still, it is good to be reminded of the details from time to time, so that Christian unity does not merely remain a pious wish of a few specialists. I do believe that this decree contains the Holy Spirit’s “game plan” for the ecumenical movement. I also think it has barely been implemented, which may go a long way to explaining why progress towards Christian unity can sometimes seem painfully slow. Let me conclude by offering one of my favourite passages from the decree of Vatican II:
The term “ecumenical movement” indicates the initiatives and activities planned and undertaken, according to the various needs of the Church and as opportunities offer, to promote Christian unity. These are: first, every effort to avoid expressions, judgments and actions which do not represent the condition of our separated brethren with truth and fairness and so make mutual relations with them more difficult; then, “dialogue” between competent experts from different Churches and Communities. At these meetings, which are organized in a religious spirit, each explains the teaching of his Communion in greater depth and brings out clearly its distinctive features. In such dialogue, everyone gains a truer knowledge and more just appreciation of the teaching and religious life of both Communions. In addition, the way is prepared for cooperation between them in the duties for the common good of humanity which are demanded by every Christian conscience; and, wherever this is allowed, there is prayer in common. Finally, all are led to examine their own faithfulness to Christ’s will for the Church and accordingly to undertake with vigor the task of renewal and reform.
When such actions are undertaken prudently and patiently by the Catholic faithful, with the attentive guidance of their bishops, they promote justice and truth, concord and collaboration, as well as the spirit of brotherly love and unity. This is the way that, when the obstacles to perfect ecclesiastical communion have been gradually overcome, all Christians will at last, in a common celebration of the Eucharist, be gathered into the one and only Church in that unity which Christ bestowed on His Church from the beginning.
“A common celebration of the Eucharist.” Even if we are not there, it remains a beautiful dream! May all be one, in a genuine communion of truth, hope, and charity.