May 2004

Baseball bat homilies

I received a rather unusual compliment after my homily today:

“Fr. Tom, your homilies are like a baseball bat. They just demolish everything we believe in!”

Excuse me?

What she meant was, the homily that day tackled head-on some of the uncritical assumptions people have about religion in our post-modern society, and that it confronted those assumptions with the truths found in scripture.

That’s better!

Starting to plan a new healing ministry

I’ve mentioned in the past how I am the clergy liaison for the healing ministry for our diocese, and today we had a meeting of those interested in re-booting that ministry in our diocese.

We began by putting Christ is the centre of our vision, by recognizing that when we visit the sick and pray with them, it is really Christ we are visiting. Our service to the sick is a ministry to the suffering Christ.

Baptism ministry

We had a meeting this evening of our Baptism Steering Committee, to try and plan how we want to improve what it is we are doing here at the parish. We love baptism itself, of course — no one want to try and improve on God’s sacraments — but the things surrounding the sacrament are within our control: things like the preparation, the follow-up, and even the quality of the celebration itself.

Reflections on celibacy

Yesterday was my 3rd anniversary of ordination to the deaconate. On that day I accepted to become a “servant,” in obedience to my bishop and his successors. I also made a formal promise to remain celibate for the rest of my life.

The “Fair Trade” movement

We live in an era of increasing globalization, driven by an economic movement that promotes international free trade in an effort to reduce costs. However, this has the effect of sometimes driving down the value of people’s work (especially in the Third World) to a point where they live in virtual slavery and cannot see any hope for bettering their condition. Enter the Fair Trade movement.


A discussion I recently had with a parishioner eventually turned to the question of malevolence, because of things that were being experienced. I firmly believe that there exist malevolent personalities out there. I also think that many of us are poorly equipped to deal with such persons when we encounter them.

Two of my readers meet + follow-up to the “March for Life”

My friend Fr. Stephen Otvos attended the March for Life in Ottawa May 13, 2004. While there another participant overheard him mention that he was a priest from Montreal, and she asked him “Are you Fr. Tom Dowd?” Apparently Fr. Stephen had run into one of the readers of my blog! That is really neat. Message received, Fed!

“The Great Darkness” — NOT!

My province, Quebec, used to be one of the most Catholic places on Earth….and then the 1960’s came, and along with it something we call here the “Quiet Revolution” (think if the French Revolution, only without the guillontine). The population turned again the Church quite dramatically, and the period prior to the Quite Revolution has been termed “The Great Darkness” in the popular myth. There are a million and one stories of terrible persecutions inflicted upon the people by the priests, as though the Church was the root of all evil.

Honeymooning with the Lord

I’ve decided that, as part of my vacation, I want to “honeymoon with the Lord” by staying for a week (at least) in a monastery. People sometimes find it strange that I would want to spend part of my vacation in a monastery, but if the Lord really is my beloved, I don’t see why this is so hard to understand.

“There is nothing unbiblical in the Catholic faith”

In my dealings with Evangelicals and Pentecostals, I have found they can be largely grouped into two categories: those whose fundamental self-definition is what they believe, and those who define themselves according to what they do *not* believe. And the second category often has to do with contrasting their faith with Catholicism — or, more accurately, what they *think* is Catholicism.

Seeing old friends

The other night I had the pleasure of having dinner with my good friend Paul Robichaud and his wife Isabelle Lafortune. (In case you were wondering, the law here in Quebec is that women do not take their husband’s name when they marry — hence the different last names).

The light on the water

I went on a 25 km bike trip today (25 km = 15 miles, approx.). I decided to bike around Île Bizard, which is part of my parish. While 25 km is a bit ambitious for only my second bike trip this year, there are two lovely parks that I like to stop at while touring the island. The first is a part of Parc Cap-St-Jacques, which has a marshy area teeming with life — turtles, tadpoles, small fish, and so on. If you are quiet, you can see quite a bit. But the real treat this time was the next rest stop.


Today we had our Episcopal Vicar, Msgr. Sean Harty, come to offer the sacrament of Confirmation to the children of our parish. The two celebrations we had were well-attended, and a reverent atmosphere prevailed throughout. I think our kids got a lot out of it, so my only real hope now is that it doesn’t become their graduation ceremony from the Catholic Church.

Why confirmation?

William J. Bausch called Confirmation "a sacrament in search of a theology". The problem seems to come down to the question, "Just what does Confirmation do?" Many people erroneously believe that Confirmation is like a Catholic bar mitzvah, where the young man or woman publicly declares that they are taking responsibility for their faith. While this is a nice idea, we do this in fact at every Easter when we renew our baptismal promises — we don't need another sacrament for *that*.

Family ministry

Our parish has been engaged in a stewardship initiative, in which we are trying to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit for various areas of parish pastoral life. We are doing this through a series of “town hall meetings,” each with a theme derived from our Parish Pastoral Action Plan. The most recent was family ministry.

Preparing for the upcoming election

No, I don’t mean Bush vs. Kerry…..I’m *Canadian*, remember? But here in Canada we are also expecting to have a federal election sometime in June or July. The Canadian bishops have therefore decided to publish a very interesting document, one that I think our American friends might also enjoy, setting forth principles to help Catholic voters make their prudential judgement when they vote on election day. It’s worth checking out.

The difference between a Skinner box and a confessional

I went out for coffee last night with one of my parishioners. He is a psychology major at Concordia University, and was one of my students a while ago. Our conversation was somewhat freewheeling, taking in (in no particular order) the proper way to make a cappuccino, the weakness of the Euro vs. the American Dollar, and the strengths and weaknesses of Quebec public policy regarding education.

Coptic coincidences, continued

I wrote about my recent encounters with Coptic Christians in a previous blog entry. More such encounters today.

The 3 Coptic priests came to Mass this evening, accompanying a family from our parish.

One of them brought me a gift: a jar of frankincense! It was great to be using the real stuff, with its wonderful odour.

The wife of one of the priests approached me and we spent quite some time discussing the homily.

And a few Orthodox worshippers even approached to receive communion.