July 2004

Sick visits — please pray

I had a chance to visit the hospital today and look in on the father of one of our parishioners. The poor man is quite ill, having had multiple heart attacks as well as other health issues. He woke up as I arrived, and we prayed together a bit in German (he is originally from the same part of Germany as some of my family). I blessed him, and then he went back to sleep. It lasted only 15 minutes, but (for me at least) was priceless. Please pray for him and his family.

Golden age, gold records, hearts of gold

I’ve heard about recording artists receiving a “gold record” when they sell a certain number of copies of an album (I suppose it is a “gold CD” now) but I’d never seen one up close…..until today. I was visiting with an elderly couple who have recently moved into the parish (they had invited me over for supper), and as part of the grand tour I saw one of these gold records on the wall, all bright and shiny.

Apparently, I am a Martian

I went out for lunch today with the deacon of our parish, Deacon Richard Boileau, who in his day job is Executive Director of Health Partners International, a NGO which ships free medicines to developing nations. We had a very nice chat, sharing on our respective vocations, as well as on how we see the developing role of the laity in the Church. He pointed me to this article written by the late Claude Ryan, which really is quite good.

Captain’s blog, stardate 20040728:20h00

With the Captain currently on shore leave, I am now the acting head of this vessel, the “Becket”, named after a man who died a martyr. As I begin these log entries, I am hoping the same fate will not befall me….or if it does, that at least it’ll have been worth it.

I’ve been the First Officer on this ship for almost 2 years now — a very interesting tour of duty, I must say. I myself just returned from shore leave just last Friday, and am feeling quite refreshed.

Happy reunions

While in Ottawa I had a chance to see my aunt Michaele and her son Heath, along with my other cousin Lukas. I don’t see them nearly enough, especially since Michaele and Heath live in Iowa. It was a nice reunion.

As we were chatting, my aunt told me that she had reestablished contact with a “long-lost” cousin of mine, Chad, who now lives in Vancouver. I don’t think I’ve seen Chad or his sister in 25 years, for reasons I’m not going to blog about (family stuff, you understand). Given that I’m only 33, though, that is a long time ago.

The 10 just men

Today’s first reading is the famous passage in Genesis in which Abraham and God negotiate regarding the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (mainly Sodom). Abraham gets God to promise that he will not destroy Sodom if 50 just men can be found there. He then starts to talk God down, until finally God agrees to not destroy the city if only 10 can be found there. But it made me wonder, why stop at 10? Why didn’t Abraham try for an even better deal, say 5, or just 2 or 3?

The angels and the cosmos

At supper today we had an interesting discussion regarding the participation of the angels in the governance of the cosmos. This is not a new idea — Aristotle had already advanced something similar, only he didn’t call them “angels” but “separated substances”. We sometimes forget that as part of ordinary Catholic doctrine, we believe that angels are instruments of God’s providence here on earth and exercise some sort of “guardianship” over the functioning of nature.

Divine redecorating

Before going on vacation I informed my pastor that, in his absence (as his vacation starts as soon as mine is over) I was planning on redecorating the TV room — specifically, by removing the TV. I find the TV to be (for me at least) an occasion of sin with a remote control — especially for the sin of sloth, which starts as mere couch potato syndrome but which so easily leads to genuine acedia.

First golf game of the year

Today I had the opportunity to go out with 3 friends (2 of whom I have known since high school) for a round of golf. 4.5 hours in the burning sun, with high humidity….and yet it was lots of fun, even if my score was terrible! I’ve found that since my ribcage injury earlier this year my swing is really off….it’s like by brain is still telling my body to protect itself and not move in certain ways. Still, I did manage to par hole #17, which was a highlight of the afternoon.



On a damp and melancholy evening
I tore from His castle,
from the holes in my soul,
to go and dance at Lucifer's.
Enough with this pitted cloth!
Can't it be ripped to pieces once and for all?
Let freedom and license reign!

Visiting Jesus’ grandmother

Well, technically we didn’t visit Jesus’ grandmother….we visited part of her forearm. Today Fr. Stephen and I made a pilgrimage to the shrine of Saint-Anne-de-Beaupré, the oldest pilgrimage site in North America. Saint Anne, apart from being Mary’s mother (and therefore the grandmother of Jesus), is also the patron saint of Quebec. The shrine itself centres on a stunning basilica with a beautiful way of the cross set into the adjacent hillside. It really is magnificent.

A very moving visit

Today Fr. Stephen and I took a 1.5 hour boat cruise on the St. Laurence river, to get to the island of Grosse-Île. Among other things, it is the resting place of thousands of Irish who died of typhus contracted while making the transatlantic voyage during the Famine of 1845-1850. Fr. Stephen and I prayed the Office for the Dead as we sat on a park bench facing the cemetary.

The prevailing image of the priesthood in Quebec

So Fr. Stephen and I visited the Quebec parliament building today, also known as the National Assembly. Being on vacation we went dressed in our “civilian” clothes — shorts, t-shirts, Fr. Stephen in his straw cowboy hat, etc. As we were being given a tour of the building by the official guide, she asked us what we did for a living. When Fr. Stephen mentioned that we were both priests, she exclaimed:

“Des prètres! Mais c’est une espèce en voie de disparition, n’est-ce pas?”

In Quebec City

Well, this morning I drove from Montreal to Quebec City, to continue my vacation (have I mentioned that I am on vacation?) Quebec City has to be one of the most beautiful cities in North America, and it easily has the most European feel to it.

Out for supper with the Pope’s ambassador

This evening I had a chance to go out for supper with the Apostolic Nuncio to Canada, Archbishop Luigi Ventura. Not that he knew who I was before the evening began. I know one of his secretaries, Mdgr. Serge Poitras, who was a professor of mine at the seminary. A gang of us were going to go visit Serge in Ottawa, and when the Nuncio heard about it he offered to take us out to supper. Well I wasn’t about to refuse that!

Back from Oka

What a great retreat. Two weeks seems long, and by the end I was ready to come back “into the world”, but a big part of me wishes I could have stayed longer.

Oka, day 14

My final reflections from my retreat at Oka had to do with the very theme of this blog, “Waiting in Joyful Hope”. I was reflecting on a homily I recently heard, and I realised why it bugged me so much. In it the speaker offered the usual platitude that we Christians have to act to “make the world a better place”. Now I agree with this, in the sense that I don’t want us acting to make the world a worse place. But is that really the end goal? When I hear preachers say we need to work to “build the Kingdom of God”, what do they really mean?

Oka, day 13

As I mentioned previously, a review of my personal Rule has led me to examine certain elements of my life and, more specifically, some of the activities I am involved in.

I have come to the peaceful conclusion, first of all, that my parish work is first and foremost where God wants me to be. God wants me at St. Thomas a Becket, at least for the time being, and until my bishop sends me elsewhere this is where I must wholeheartedly apply my “devoir d’état”.

Oka, day 12

An important day for my American friends…..I hope it was full of joy for you.

What made day 12 significant, relative to the remarkable day 11, was how ordinary it was. I was all excited to go to chapel, and enter into prayer, seeking that closeness with the Lord again, and what happened? Dryness and distraction. I had trouble just starting off the prayer, and it felt like all I had to offer was my being there.

Oka, day 11

This was the awesome day my two lines of reflection — total obedience to the Holy Spirit, and the reading of the book on how to enter into comtemplative prayer — converged.

First of all, my reflection on the “total obedience” thing had been limited up until this point to a review of the various activities I am involved in, to see which really came from God and which originated in my own worldliness. This is a worthwhile exercise, to be sure, but somewhat limited.

Oka, day 10

Today was the funeral of Sean’s younger brother, so I was back in town once again. Turning out to be an odd retreat, this one! But this wound up being my last occasion to play hooky.

Oka, day 9

Canada Day! And also the birthday of a good friend, Fr. Stephen Otvos, and of his twin brother Patrick. The family lives close by, so I decided to respond to an invitation to visit with them for a few hours. So yes, back into the world *again*…..but the spiritual reading, and times of prayer, are going well in the meantime.