June 2004

Oka, day 7

I picked up a real gem of a book in the monastery library the other day, entitled Comment faire oraison by Guido Stinissen. It is hard to translate the title, because there is not exacy English equivalent for the word “oraison”. I guess you could best translate it as “How to enter into contemplative prayer: walking in the footsteps of Theresa of Avila”.

In search of a philosopher-king

I submitted this piece to my local newspaper, describing my conclusions from having done all those political interviews. They never printed it, however — I guess an election time is just too juicy for their regular columnists. That’s ok, though — after all, there is always the blog!


by Fr. Thomas Dowd

Oka, day 6 (formerly titled: Back to vote)

The retreat went on hold for a bit today, as I came back into town to vote. I wrote the following post on that day, along with posting an draft op-ed piece:

Yes, I *am* still on retreat. Given all the effort I put into getting to know the candidates, however, I didn’t see how I couldn’t come back to town to vote.

It looks like it will be a squeaker of an election. So vote, folks! Every ballot counts.

Oka, day 5

The grace of the retreat is now really starting to flow. And within it I received an exciting call: “the gift of total obedience to the Holy Spirit”.

Oka, day 4

Well, this day was a turning point for me in the retreat. If you’ll notice the LONG reflections of the previous 2 days, you can see I was still in “intellectual mode”. I guess that was just momentum from everything I do “in the world”. This day was my first real day to decompress, and to reflect on *why* I was so tired.

Oka, day 3

Waves of fatigue today. Slept, slept, slept.

I’ve experienced this before on retreat — usually it marks a transition from the momentum we carry with us from our life in the world, to the calmer pace of the monastery. Felt good.

Oka, day 2

Reflection on the Anointing of the Sick

Who should be anointed?

Some time back I offered to post an entry on the question “How sick do you have to be to receive the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick?” I never did get around to posting it, not because the topic wasn’t of interest, but because the more I examined the question the more complex it seemed.

Who should be anointed?

The sacrament of the sick is an important part of priestly ministry, which means the question of who should be anointed is not merely theoretical — every so often every priest is confronted with a situation where he has to make a judgement call "to anoint, or not to anoint".

Oka, day 1

I was meditating on the Glorious mysteries of the rosary today, and I wrote this reflection that afternoon.

The Assumption matters!

Normally I meditate on the Glorious Mysteries when I pray the Rosary on a Wednesday. Today I saw a new dimension of the mystery of the Assumption of Mary that I never noticed before.

Off on retreat

Well, a very strong cup of coffee last night has meant not a wink of sleep for me….it is 5:00 am as I write this, and I am quite awake. On the bright side this means I can make it to the monastery for 6:45 am Lauds! Not a bad way to start a 2-week retreat.

Please pray for me…I have a few important decisions I need to discern. I’ll be in and out on June 28 in order to vote in the federal election, so I may check in then and let you know how it’s going. Otherwise, though, the blog is on retreat as well.

Prayers for Rick Barrett

A few days ago I received a call from my Grade 9 English teacher. Sadly, the call was all business….her husband Rick had just passed away suddenly, leaving Noreen (his wife) and Katie (their young teenage daughter) behind. The funeral was this morning, yours truly presiding.

Noreen and Katie were doing pretty well all things considered, but I’ll be praying for her big time over my retreat, and when I get back I’ll check in on them again. I’d appreciate it if you folks could offer a prayer or two as well.

Checking out campers

Today I went with my Dad to Vos Trailers in Stittsville, Ontario, to check up on the work they are supposed to be doing on my camper. Yes, I said my camper. It is a fairly roomy trailer camper that my parents are giving me to set up as a “home away from home” for myself (did I mention that I am on vacation?)


Today I begin my month of vacation. You can expect my blogging to be even more sporadic than it otherwise has been lately, especially when I head off to Oka Monastery for a couple of weeks of much-needed retreat time.

Also, I’ll be setting my junk mail filters on my Hotmail box to auto-delete unrecognized messages. So if you send me something and I never get it, that might be why. Try sending it through the form found on the “contact me” page.

Montreal loses two bishops

The CCCB issued a press release today, announcing that two Montreal auxiliary bishops are being sent to other dioceses.

Bishop Louis Dicaire is being sent to St-Jean-Longueuil diocese. This is a bit surprising, given his poor health. Despite his young age, he has had at least one heart attack, as well as other problems. Perhaps things are improving for him! Good luck Bishop Dicaire!

A cute moment

As I was changing after a special family mass we had today, a young lad (7 years old) wandered into the vestry whom I had never seen before. I offered to show him some of the special clothes the priest wears, and even put a stole on him (this was really cute, it was way too long for him).

Congrats to the jubilarians

Today we had a our annual priestly gathering to honour the priest celebrating special jubilees. I arrived a bit late so I missed some of the speeches, but I did get there in time for some apple pie dessert! Congrats in particular to our neighbouring pastor, Fr. Pat Donnelly of St. Edmund of Canterbury (celebrating his 25th), and to a good friend and mentor, Fr. Tom McEntee (celebrating his 50th).

You read my mind

I got a call from my sister recently. She was at a party where a theological discussion began to rage, so she left the following message on my voice mail:

“Tom, can Satan read our thoughts?”

I love this job. You just never know what kind of question someone will ask, and it’s off to the personal library to try and find a reply.

The short answer: yes and no. See this response by St. Thomas Aquinas, Whether angels know secret thoughts?.

The sacred duty

I had a chance to reflect with some parents today on the nature of their role as educators of their children. The Catholic Church holds that parents are the “first” educators of their children in matters of the faith, and that doesn’t just mean in terms of calendar time. It means a sacred duty has been given to them, which they explicitly accepted when they had their children baptised.

The Holy of Holies

A few years ago my friend Johnny was visiting from Texas, and I was taking him on a tour of a church. He wasn't very familiar with the details of the Catholic faith, so I explained things as best I could as we walked through the building. When we got to the tabernacle, though, I found myself a bit speechless (probably a good thing, if you think about it). After all, how do you explain the Real Presence to someone who has never heard of it before?

On call

Today I completed my first evening of on-call duty for the Lakeshore General Hospital. The chaplain of the Lakeshore recently he asked me if I would be willing to take on-call duty 2 nights a month. At first I hesitated to take on more stuff, but I must admit that my “growing edge” is in hospital ministry. I just don’t do a lot of it, and I have little experience with it. The seminary I attended, while excellent in many respects, unfortunately taught me absolutely *nothing* about visiting the sick, so I find myself sometimes running on pure pastoral instinct.

An unexpected moment of peace and quiet

Today I had my meeting with my Jesu Caritas group. Or at least, I was supposed to.

We generally meet at a diocesan meeting house located a bit north of Montreal, called Val-Marie. I decided to go against my usual pattern and show up a bit early. Normally, we would start our meeting at 3pm, so I got there at about 1:30. Sitting on the porch, looking out at the Rivière des Mille Îles, reading my breviary or praying my rosary, it felt like time stood still.

The Conservative Party candidate for Lac-St-Louis: Jeff Howard

Today I met with Jeff Howard, the local candidate for the Conservative Party. Here are the answers he gave to the questions the CCCB has proposed we ask of electoral candidates in this election:

  • What is the position of the candidate and his political party on protecting the right to life of all human beings, from conception to natural death?

    Regarding abortion, Mr. Howard offered the following quote by email: “We have no policy on abortion. No plans to change the laws as they stand

The Green Party candidate for Lac-St-Louis: Peter Graham

Today I met with Peter Graham, the local candidate for the Green Party. Here are the answers he gave to the questions the CCCB has proposed we ask of electoral candidates in this election:

  • What is the position of the candidate and his political party on protecting the right to life of all human beings, from conception to natural death?

    Regarding abortion, Mr. Graham said that he was pro-choice and therefore he would oppose the introduction of legislation restricting abortion.

Marriage jubilee

Today was the annual parish “Marriage Jubliee”, where we invite couples living a significant anniversary (i.e. divisible by 5) to renew their vows. 18 couples participated, totalling 550 years of married life. The oldest couple was celebrating 55 years together. It was really very nice.

Congrats to Bethany and Stephane

This evening I had the pleasure of attending the wedding of two very good friends of mine, Bethany Cere and Stephane Boulet. Why get married on a Friday night? Because several of their friends are priests, who would have been busy on a Saturday. There were 6 of us in the sanctuary, and a couple who could not make it at the last minute. Tells you something about this couple.

I’m cracking up

Well, it’s official: according to my doctor my squash game last Tuesday has resulted in at least one, possibly two cracked ribs. It all depends if the second “locus of pain” is a bruise or a hairline fracture, but one of them is definitely the latter. The treatment: none! Just take painkillers (in my case, Aspirin or Tylenol should do) and wait it out. Oh, and I can’t play squash or golf or cycle or whatever for at least 2 weeks, preferably 4. Sigh…….

Healing ministry steering committee

I met with John Vienneau today to plan out who we want to invite to join our healing ministry steering committee. I felt like I was reliving the election of Matthias or something…..the people who attended our last gathering had put in their nominations, and certain names emerged from those nominations almost as a matter of course. John and I prayed about it, and we narrowed the list.

I got squashed

I smashed into the wall of the court while playing squash today against Benoit, and somehow I managed to trap my arm against my chest in some unusual manner, thus putting huge pressure on the left side of my rib cage.

Yes, I am in pain. It’s not that bad as long as I don’t laugh or breathe too deeply, or move in certain ways. But if you come visiting and you notice something unusual in my demeanor, don’t take it personally.