His was a new teaching with authority.
(Mark 1. 21-28)
MESSAGES FROM THE BISHOP
Dear clergy and faithful,
The liturgical time of Christmas has already ended this past Sunday with the feast of the Baptism of Our Lord Jesus, to make way for so-called “Ordinary Time”. This feast reminds us of the grace of our own baptism, which has enabled us to become children of God. Indeed, when Jesus was plunged into the waters of the Jordan River to be baptized by John the Baptist, he did not enter them in order to be sanctified, but rather to sanctify the waters that would later serve to communicate to us the grace, at our baptism, of being adopted sons and daughters of God. By being submerged in the waters of the Jordan and coming out enlivened and filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus tells us that all who believe in Him will be associated with His death and will one day rise with Him.
As in the great primal waters described in the book of Genesis, where the Spirit hovered over the waters before beginning the creation of the universe and of human beings, so it is in the baptism of Jesus: the Spirit hovered over the waters of the Jordan before re-creating humans in the image of the Son of God, an image that we lost after the fault of our first parents. The baptism of Jesus is therefore the perfect opportunity for us to celebrate the feast of our spiritual re-creation. In the book of Genesis, after the grave faults of disobedience and pride were committed and whose fatal consequences we have inherited, “From now on the Spirit of God has no more permanent abode among men.”(Genesis 6:3), Satan then possessed us by inflicting all kinds of evil and pain on us. The heavens closed and our relationship with God was abruptly interrupted.
Like the prophet Isaiah who lamented, “Oh, if you would tear the heavens apart and come down!”(Is 63:19), we, too, who are weary of suffering because we are deprived of and thirsty for the presence of God, make his cry of distress our own. But when Jesus is baptized, the heavens are torn apart, says the Gospel, to allow the Divine Spirit to descend and dwell again in the midst of those who accept His yoke of love. That is why, just as the heavens are torn apart, the Father’s voice becomes audible to all the believers who have gathered with the Saviour and witnessed his baptism: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I have put all my love. Listen to him.” Certainly, we were all plunged into the water with Jesus at His baptism, so that we might come out renewed and enlivened. But let us add that only He, the true Lamb, was able to descend into hell after His death, for He wanted to strip Satan of his trophies in order to place us once again in the hands and heart of His Father.
May the liturgical time known as “Ordinary” be engraved, day after day, with the memory of this grandiose liberation which took place and was celebrated at the baptism of Jesus. By choosing to do just one small daily meditation on this great mystery, we will undoubtedly be able to recognize “Ordinary” Time as a truly “extraordinary” time!
+ Guy Desrochers, C.Ss.R., Bishop of Pembroke
Pastoral letter of the Bishop to the clergy and faithful of the Diocese of Pembroke
Witnessing the dignity of Life – Feast day of the Baptism of the Lord
Sunday, January 10, 2021
“Stay Awake!” (Mt 24:42)
During Advent, we have heard the voice of St John the Baptist calling the Church to repentance, conversion and the spiritual challenge of making a straight way for the coming of the Lord. Hearing this call from the Word of God each year beckons us to ‘stay awake’ for the coming of the Lord and to be prepared to given an accounting of our lives before Him at the end of time. Welcoming Christ into our hearts requires us to open our lives to Him completely and wholeheartedly, knowing that the Risen Lord and his law are where our true freedom is found.
While we were journeying through these days of Advent in our own nation, legislative procedures were undertaken that seek to expand euthanasia/assisted suicide laws to encompass those whose death is not immediately foreseeable, including those who are living with mental illness or a disability. The race towards radical expansion of the assisted dying laws in Canada in just a few short years has taken place alongside growing acceptance and normalization of something that just a few years ago was unthinkable. ‘Medical Assistance in Dying’ (MAiD) is now publicly celebrated as a virtue in many media stories, and it is not uncommon to see public obituaries proudly profess euthanasia/assisted suicide as a celebrated means of death. When societal attitudes evolve so quickly and popularly, as followers of Christ, we must return to St John the Baptist’s call to conversion and repentance: ‘Stay awake!’
The Good Samaritan: Witnessing to the dignity of life
Our Holy Father Pope Francis consistently acts as a voice in the wilderness, calling all followers of Christ to oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide. In September, Pope Francis approved, though the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a letter called Samaritanus Bonus (The Good Samaritan): on the care of persons in the critical and terminal phases of life. It may be accessed online at vatican.va. Using the parable of the Good Samaritan, the letter reminds us that euthanasia is a “crime against human life”, and therefore is intrinsically evil in every circumstance. Additionally, any formal or material cooperation (assisting in facilitating the process of euthanasia/assisted suicide) constitutes a grave sin against human life. Such realities should not cause believers to retreat into silence, but rather to re-commit ourselves to radical accompaniment of those who are facing serious physical and mental distress, and seek to care for them in every way possible: physically, emotionally and spiritually. I highly encourage you to take the time to read Samaritanus Bonus, since in the face of such rapidly changing legal and ethical situations in our country and families, we must allow our hearts and consciences to be formed to God’s Law as spoken to us in Christ and His Church.
Samaritanus Bonus addresses the formation of family members, health care professionals and clergy in facing the unthinkable situations surrounding an impending assisted suicide. The letter makes it very clear that “the quality of love and care for persons in critical and terminal states of life contributes to assuaging the terrible, desperate desire to end one’s life. Only human warmth and evangelical fraternity can reveal a positive horizon of support to the sick person in hope and confident trust”. (SB, 10) This need for radical accompaniment of the sick person means that every effort must be made to show sacrificial love, provide real comfort and seek to alleviate physical and mental distress. Hospital chaplains and clergy are exhorted to intensify the spiritual and moral formation of healthcare workers, including physicians and nursing staff, as well as those who volunteer in our healthcare facilities, so that all involved in the care of the dying may at all times be faithful witnesses to the Gospel of Life.
Care for the body and the salvation of souls
Just as the alleviation of physical and emotional suffering is crucial at the time of caring for someone who is sick, so too is the spiritual responsibility of caring for the soul of a person. While our bodies will eventually die, the soul is the innermost part of the person, and is immortal. Authentic care for the soul is not arbitrary, but finds fullness in encountering the Truth as revealed to us by Christ. Pope Francis has taken this obligation seriously in seeking to ensure that all members of the Church are clearly aware that euthanasia is, in every circumstance, a grave evil. As your Chief Shepherd, together with the priests of the Church, we have promised with our lives to articulate what is inscribed on the human heart and taught by the Church. While many will seek to dismiss and discredit such teachings in light of the growing acceptance and even promotion of euthanasia/assisted suicide, the Word of God in recent Sundays has reminded all of us that we will all have to render a personal account before the Lord. Since the pastors of the Church are entrusted with the care of souls, we must endeavour not only to articulate the teaching but also the reasons why the teaching is consistent with the Good News of God’s Law.
Samaritanus Bonus imparts very clear pastoral guidance as to why the Sacraments are not to be administered to one who has made his/her decision for euthanasia. The Church has consistently shown us that the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick and Viaticum are to be administered only when a proper disposition is evident, specifically contrition and openness to the mercy of God. One cannot be open to the graces of the Sacraments while at the same time having an intention of then violating God’s Law with euthanasia/assisted suicide. To do so would create a situation where a priest is unable to administer the Sacraments faithfully. The graces of the Sacraments are so lavish that the ministers of the Church must never give up praying with such persons to seek a conversion of heart. Samaritanus Bonus states, “The position of the Church here does not imply a non-acceptance of the sick person. It must be accompanied by a willingness to listen and to help, with a deeper explanation of the nature of the sacrament, in order to provide the opportunity to desire and choose the sacrament up to the last moment”. (SB, 11)
We are now faced with the new pastoral reality of what happens in the Christian community when one has followed through with euthanasia/assisted suicide. The manner of death is often widely known and even celebrated. Perhaps in recent decades we have lost sight of the purpose of the Mass of Christian Burial: to pray for our deceased brother or sister, and to commend them to the mercy and tenderness of Almighty God by joining them to the one sacrifice of Christ made present in the Mass. Funerals are first and foremost for the dead, and we who are left to mourn find consolation in the great promise of Christ’s victory over sin and death and great promise of the resurrection of the body. This is one of the great consolations of our living faith. While funerals are for all redeemed sinners, the Church also requires that the celebration of Christian funerals be a proclamation of faith and reflect the life and conscience of the one who has died. The Church offers Christian Burial for those who have tragically died by suicide, because we are unable to understand the darkness that person was experiencing and how such suffering impaired their own decision-making at the time of death. That is why there is great consolation in the offering of funeral rites in such situations. Yet the decision to die by euthanasia/assisted suicide is a very different pastoral situation, because by virtue of the laws of our country, a person choosing this method of death — while undoubtedly suffering — manifests his/her decision in a way that is deemed rational and wholehearted. The further pain of this situation is that this deliberate decision — assisted by professionals and affirmed by those who cooperate — causes a wound of scandal in the wider believing community. In such situations, it is not possible for the offering of a Christian funeral, since such a notorious decision would undoubtedly be the cause of great difficulty for the community of the Church. This does not exclude the urgent need to pray for the deceased, but with such a public manifestation of intention, it would be difficult for an official minister of the Church to lead a liturgy in a church, funeral home or cemetery. The pastor of souls would have to endeavour to ensure that Masses for the Dead and other prayers are offered for the benefit of the deceased and for the consolation of those who mourn.
Be transformed by the renewal of your mind (Rm 12: 2)
Just a few years ago, we could not have imagined the widespread ramifications of these issues on the life of families and the community of the Church. It must be clearly stated that in these pastoral circumstances, when the final Sacraments or Catholic funeral rites cannot take place, the Church is not punishing any person, since it is the desire of the Church that every soul benefit from the necessary graces that they offer.
It is necessary for all pastors and catechists of our diocese to begin, as soon as possible, to find practical and unified ways to form and educate the consciences of our faithful and of those who believe that euthanasia/assisted suicide is a positive evolution in our modern societies. I strongly encourage all of you to work in unison with me to reverse this rising trend, because, as you know, many Catholics are now adhering to it, not realizing the grave consequences that could ultimately compromise their eternal salvation. Therefore, when receiving a request for a funeral liturgy, whether it is to be presided at the church or at the funeral home, in cases of uncertainty and after giving our sincere condolences, the pastor or deacon should respectfully enquire about the nature of the death, to possibly determine if it is an act of euthanasia/assisted suicide or not. Our experience to date is that we are often faced with this shocking truth during the funeral liturgy itself or when a member of the family gives an unexpected eulogy at the funeral home or at the cemetery.
This respectful enquiry will give us an opportunity to form and educate the conscience of those who do not understand the danger of euthanasia. If the person does not understand the reasoning behind the position of the Church, may I suggest a first step before you open the apologetical doors that often lead nowhere: invite them to read the letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: Samaritanus Bonus (or refer them to a simpler version of the same text). Before the next phase of discussion, pray that God will give you his grace to always remain at peace and respectful when you listen or talk to the person. Many people need to be listened to before they accept any reasonable or logical arguments, especially in times of grief. After a frank and polite discussion, if the person continues to object, a third step would be to affirm that they must respect the fact that we are not able to provide for the funeral liturgy at the church or at the funeral home. It would become a contradiction of our Catholic beliefs and an object of scandal for the Christian communities who become confused when they hear of the public liturgy for a euthanized person at the church or at the funeral home. This could eventually lead our faithful to believe that euthanasia/assisted suicide is now accepted by the Church. But nevertheless, we can reassure them that we will continue to pray for the deceased person and for the grieving family and friends. Special Mass intentions could later be offered for the person and/or for family members. As stated earlier in this pastoral letter, the Church’s intention is not to punish when giving her directives. She is simply echoing the command of our God-Creator who expects respect for his infinite Wisdom and Providence in deciding who comes to life in this world, and when it is time for us to leave our temporal dwelling.
The echo of St John the Baptist to repent, change our ways, and make a highway in our hearts for the Saviour is not a call reserved to the days of Advent. The call to conform ourselves to Christ totally and wholeheartedly is the daily vocation of discipleship. This purification of our mind and heart to live the Christian life is all the more challenging in an influential and secular culture that seeks to conform the Church’s teaching and practices to popular opinion. St Paul exhorts us in the Letter to the Romans:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12.1-2)
This Year of St Joseph presents us with a fitting time to seek the intercession of the “just one” who quietly shows us the example of fidelity to the will of God, even when seemingly difficult. May St Joseph, patron of a happy death — and patron of Canada — assist us in keeping our minds hearts always awake and eager for the coming of the Lord.
+ Guy Desrochers, C.Ss.R., Bishop of Pembroke
FROM THE CCCB
Life and Family Suggestions for Homilies and Prayers of the Faithful During January 2021
Even during a time of social isolation because of the Coronavirus pandemic, the Sunday liturgy continues to offer nourishment for prayer and reflection during the whole week – whether we are meditating on the readings, or participating in a television broadcast of the Mass and making a spiritual Communion.
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) continues to post possible homily ideas and prayers of the faithful to help link the Sunday liturgy with the national pastoral initiative for life and family. The proposed texts for the month of January 2021 include suggestions from the Baptism of the Lord, 10 January, to the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 31 January 2021. As usual, the suggestions for homilies and prayers can be easily adapted for family prayer, as well as for personal prayer or for use with other groups or organizations. The texts for the month of January are available on the special Life and Family webpage, under the section “Suggestions for Homilies & Prayers of the Faithful”.
Resources for 2021 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
The annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity will be celebrated 18 to 25 January 2021 on the theme “Abide in my love and you shall bear much fruit” (John 15:5-9). The resources in English and in French can be freely downloaded from the Canadian website for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The theme and biblical texts for this annual Week of Prayer are jointly prepared by the Holy See’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches. The thematic introduction to the 2021 materials comes from the Monastic Community of Grandchamp in Switzerland, a group of religious sisters from different church traditions brought together by a common vocation of prayer, community life and hospitality and by their commitment to Christian unity. National and regional Councils of Churches adapt the resources for their local context. The resources for Canada are produced by an ecumenical writing team coordinated by the Commission on Faith and Witness of the Canadian Council of Churches (CCC). The CCCB is a member of the CCC and is also represented on its Canadian writing team for the Week of Prayer.
Message of His Holiness Pope Francis for the Celebration of the 54th World Day of Peace – January 1, 2021 – A Culture of Care as a Path to Peace
At the dawn of a new year, I extend cordial greetings to Heads of State and Government, leaders of International Organizations, spiritual leaders and followers of the different religions, and to men and women of good will. To all I offer my best wishes that the coming year will enable humanity to advance on the path of fraternity, justice and peace between individuals, communities, peoples and nations. (Read more…)
Pope’s Prayer Intention for January 2021: Intention for evangelization – Human fraternity
May the Lord give us the grace to live in full fellowship with our brothers and sisters of other religions, praying for one another, open to all.
MARRIAGE, FAMILY, YOUTH & YOUNG ADULTS
Diocesan Young Adult Ministry (18-35 yrs.)
The Jan. 20th gathering is postponed until Jan. 27th. This will depend on the government restrictions at that time.
Diocesan Marriage Preparation Program (Feb. 27th and March 6th)
This course will be online only. New deadline date to register is Feb. 15th as materials need to be mailed out to participants.
Campaign Life Coalition
Documentary “Obsessed: Canada’s Coercive Diplomacy” airing Sunday, January 17th at 7 p.m. EST on their YouTube channel. David Mulroney, former Canadian Ambassador to China and one of Canada’s leading experts on Foreign affairs, and Obianuju Ekeocha, author, filmmaker and pro-life activist, who has been monitoring the global abortion agenda in Africa for almost a decade, have put together a documentary called “Obsessed: Canada’s Coercive Diplomacy.“ This is an eye-opening dialogue on Canada’s ideologically driven foreign affairs, its effects on the developing world, why Canadians should be upset and what this has to do with the Chinese Communist Party. Here what they have to say about Canada’s current foreign aid program, which commits almost $700 million annually towards expanding abortion overseas with your tax dollars. To watch the trailer, go to coercivediplomacy.ca or Youtube.com/campaignLifeTV and LIKE our Facebook page.
OTHER CATHOLIC EVENTS
Companions of the Cross Training for Relational Evangelization
Want to learn how to better share faith with others? Join Companions of the Cross on Tuesday evenings January 12th to February 16th from 7-8 p.m. for an engaging six-week training worship on ZOOM. To register or for more information, please check out their website here.
Knights of Columbus presents “Into the Breach”
This video series will be offered beginning Tuesday, January 12th at 7 p.m. Into the Breach is a call to battle for Catholic men which urges them to embrace wholeheartedly masculine virtues in a world in crisis. For more information about this 12 week series for men, contact John at firstname.lastname@example.org or 306 260-9672. Learn more or download the study guide at here.
2021 Diocese of St. Augustine Virtual Catholic Holy Spirit Healing Conference “Who Do You Say I Am?” (Matthew 16:15)
On January 31st. Key note speaker: Dr. Ralph Martin, President Renewal Ministries. No Cost, however donations are greatly appreciated. Click here to register or for more information.
2021 National Theology on Tap
Intentional Disciples presents “Virtual National Theology on Tap” on Friday, February 12th at 9 p.m. E.T. with guest speakers Ralph Martin and Archbishop Chaput. Visit the Intentional Disciples website for more information.
Marianhill Lottery 2021 supports the “Building Care” Redevelopment Project
Marianhill 2021 Lottery tickets are now available through to January 31, 2021. Lottery funds go towards the purchase of furniture and equipment for the new building. Each $25 ticket provides you with 69 chances to win. Call Marianhill to order 613 735-6838 ext. 4306 OR download ticket order form at https://marianhill.ca/news/. Tickets will be mailed via Canada Post. Thank you for supporting the Marianhill Foundation!