November 2003

The power of prayer…?

Last Saturday I went out with my friend Gord for some Indian food (mmmm….curry), and we got to talking about the power of prayer. Gord was a bit skeptical, and speculated that intercessiory prayer was really a bit of a cop out. His argument (and I hope I am doing it justice here) was that since God already knows everything, and we don’t, our prayer is really about making ourselves feel better, but doesn’t have any real effects since God already knows everything anyway.

Visiting VISTA

When I was a seminarian in 2000 (January to April) I was assigned to Our Lady of Pompei parish to have a “cultural experience” in an Italian environment (my Italian was a lot better back then). As part of the pastoral placement I joined their young adult group (the aforementioned VISTA). Since then I have had a couple of their members as students in my class, and I have been invited to go and speak to them. Here is an extract from the email I got from them regarding the subject they wanted covered:

An ode to teaching and teachers

Well today was my last class for the term (for those who don’t know, I teach “Introduction to Theological Studies” at Concordia University in Montreal). At the end of the class, after everyone else had left, one student came up to me to offer her thanks for what was (for her) a positive learning experience (or, as she put it, “Thanks for an amazing course!”). This was very flattering, and is good news for our department.

Why Catholics receive the Eucharist

A few months ago I got an email from a friend of mine:

[My boyfriend and I] went to Easter mass together and afterwards he asked me WHY Catholics receive Eucharist? Why do we "eat the body".... and although I understand that Jesus asked us to during the last super I'm kinda at a loss for explaining beyond that point. Why was it important for Jesus to offer us Eucharist?

Here are four key points to keep in mind when approaching this question.

POINT #1: The Mass is a "memorial"

It’s funny ’cause it’s true

While on a road trip with some buddies earlier today, one of them told the following joke:

A child is drawing a picture. The teacher asks, “What are you drawing?” The child replies, “I’m drawing a picture of God.” “But no one knows what God looks like!” the teacher objects. Unfazed, the child replies, “They will when I’m finished.”

To which my buddy Richard replies, “That summarizes a lot of modern Biblical scholarship.”

The Land of Bricks

There once was a country called Brickland. It resembled our own country very much, except the people had a very curious custom: everyone went around carrying bricks in their arms all the time.

Mental health and spiritual direction

Today I returned to the offices of West Island Citizen Advocacy for a follow-up session to the one I attended two weeks ago entitled “Mental health and the system” (see blog post November 7). The topic was to be the categories of mental illness. What struck me about it was the amazing parallels between the treatment of mental illness, particularly personality disorders, and spiritual direction.

Life in a rectory

What a day this has been, full of excellent experiences. I ran into a friend from seminary that I haven’t seen in a couple of years now…he is now a priest for the diocese of Hearst, and it gave us a chance to catch up. I also taught my course on the “Theology of the Body”, all about body adornment (e.g.

The meaning of chastity

In my experience, the word "chastity" has to be one of the most misunderstood in our post-modern culture. In our existentialist culture (see post below) we see the idea of chastity as some sort of imposition. In fact, it is meant to be a liberation. The simple fact is that for many, a "mis-aligned" sexuality is a source of great suffering. For others, it is something which does not so much drag them down as prevent them from growing into full maturity. This latter effect is very often encountered by people who are starting on a spiritual journey.

Same-sex marriage and existentialism

With regards to the current social policy debate here in Canada about same-sex marriage, people sometimes wonder where in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does it mention that discrimination is not permitted on the basis on sexual orientation. The answer is: nowhere. In fact, the Charter is completely silent on the question.

The Elegant Universe

For those of you who don’t know it, I am a huge amateur science buff. I believe in the approach Aristotle took to philosophy: you start by examining the real world and how it works. Ever notice how the highest degree you can get in science is a “Doctor of Philosophy” (Ph.D.) ? So we start with that kind of direct observation. And since there is an intimate link between philosophy and theology, even our vision of God is affected by our vision of how the world works.

Prayers for the sick

I had a lovely chance to give a woman the Anointing of the Sick today. She is going in for surgery soon, and the Anointing can be received before such an event.

A lot of people think the Anointing is the same thing as the “Last Rites”. In fact, there is no such thing as the “Last Rites” in the Catholic Church, only in Hollywood movies. That being said, there are obviously some prayers and sacraments we offer people when they are sick or dying, but we shouldn’t confuse that with “Last Rites”.

The love of God, and the gift of inner freedom

Today we had a special memorial Mass at St. Patrick’s Basilica for all the deceased English-speaking priests of the Archdiocese of Montreal. Bishop Tony Mancini was the presider and preacher. The celebration was beautiful, and I am glad to have had the chance to gather together with my brother priests (it is always good to be with “the boys”) and to have prayed for and honoured the memory of our deceased brothers, particularly Dick Griffin, Ted Mooney, and Len Crowley (all of whom died in the past year).

Were one to offer all he owns to purchase love, he would be roundly mocked. (Wisdom 8: 7b, NAB)

I taught my course at Concordia University last night. The lecture was “Theology in a society of plenty”. We live in the wealthiest society human history has ever known. What does theology have to say about that?

Anyway, we got to discussing consumerism, and I proposed that there are some things that money just can’t buy. Money, for example, can’t buy love. The principle seemed self-evident to me, but the reaction from some of the students was laughter, and the comment that (in fact) money can buy love.

God is good

Yes, I know you knew that. But He truly is. And full of surprises. If we let Him, he won’t cease to delight us.

Case in point: With the pastor, Fr. Gilles, away on an Alpha weekend, I had a heavy Saturday-Sunday lined up. 4 Masses to celebrate, a 50th anniversary renewal of wedding vows, and baptisms Sunday afternoon. But it was honest work. It needed to be done, and I was the guy around to do it. No muss, no fuss – just do it.