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From Oct. 5-19 approximately 250 people will gather in Vatican City for the extraordinary synod on the family.  Pope Francis has written that the synod will discuss the "challenges of marriage, of family life, of the education of children, and the role of the family in the life of the church."

September 25, 2014

Daunting challenge

The extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family will examine a broad range of important issues but, even before the Oct. 5 opening session, one question dominates: Will Pope Francis entertain a reinterpretation of doctrine to permit full participation in the sacraments for civilly divorced and remarried Catholics who have not received a Church annulment? In short, will they be welcomed back to Communion?

Published in Editorial

Pope Francis has asked that Sept. 28 be a day of prayer for next month’s meeting of bishops on the family. Given the crisis in family life, the Holy Father called this extraordinary Synod to address the pastoral care of the family in the context of evangelization. However, the preparation for the Synod has been entirely dominated by one topic: Will Catholics who are divorced and have entered a second civil marriage be permitted to receive Holy Communion? At the moment they should not receive Holy Communion, as any Catholic who is in a state of mortal sin is not to receive Holy Communion. 

Published in Fr. Raymond de Souza

TORONTO - Joanne McGarry was a lot of things to a lot of people — an advocate for Catholic civil rights, a Catholic journalist and a dedicated colleague to some, to others always be a dear friend, loving wife and caring mother of three. Now to all she is an angel in heaven.

Published in Canada

VATICAN CITY - St. John Paul II would not want Catholics' applause, but he would want to inspire the way they live, especially in defending the family and the sacredness of human life, said Cardinal Angelo Comastri.

Published in Papal Canonizations

Holy Family Ministries is bringing faith back to the family — at summer camp.

Published in Youth Speak News

JERUSALEM - The simmering smell of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves in Catholic parishes

Published in Vatican

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The absolute frontline in the prevention of crime is the family, a top Vatican official told members of Interpol, the international police organization.

To prevent crime and violence, societies must educate citizens about their own dignity and the value of each human life, promote solidarity and instill a sense of justice in society -- all values that can be learned earliest and best in the family, said Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Vatican's secretary for relations with states.

The archbishop spoke to members of Interpol holding their general assembly Nov. 5-8 in Rome.

The 190 country-members of Interpol not only coordinate crime-fighting efforts, but also work together on crime prevention programs.

An increase of crime, particularly brutally violent crime, around the world calls for even greater preventative actions, Archbishop Mamberti said.

Prevention requires "the removal of factors which give rise to and nourish situations of injustice. In this field a primary and preventative role belongs to education inspired by respect for human life in all circumstances," he said.

Only with the recognition of the value of each life, he said, will it be "possible to create a strong social fabric united in its fundamental values and able to resist the provocation of extreme violence."

"In this context, the most important place in which human beings are formed is the family. There, children experience the value of their own transcendent dignity, as they are accepted gratuitously on the basis of the stable and reciprocal love of their parents," he said.

In the family, people have their first experiences of "justice and forgiveness, which cements family relationships and acts as a foundation for the correct insertion into social life," Archbishop Mamberti said.

The archbishop also insisted that the respect for human dignity at the basis of good social order also must be extended to those who have disturbed the social order.

"The criminal, no matter how grave the crimes he committed, always remains a human person, endowed with rights and obligations," he said.

"The state must take steps to prevent and repress criminal activity and compensate for the disorder caused by criminal action," the archbishop said, "but doing this, it always must abstain from mistreatment and torture, and assure the safeguarding of the fundamental rights that every person enjoys."

Published in International

OTTAWA - To mark the Synod on New Evangelization taking place in Rome Oct. 7-28 and the beginning of the Year of Faith, the Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF) has released a leaflet urging families to spread the Good News.

In “The Gospel of Everyday Life: an Adventure Worth Sharing,” COLF explains the role of the family as a domestic Church as well as that of lay faithful in evangelizing in light of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and Scripture.

For decades, Catholic Church leaders have been calling for the new evangelization — “new in its ardour, new in its methods and means of expression” because “too many of the baptized live as if God does not exist,” COLF says.

“Their way of life, their opinions, their choices are aligned with an atheistic or relativistic vision of life.”

Not only baptized Catholics need to hear “Christ spoken of seriously” but so do those “with whom we rub shoulders at work, school or university, in the shopping mall, the subway or bus, in our leisure and volunteer activities."

Woven throughout with quotes from Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, the leaflet urges people to collaborate with Christ in introducing Him to family members, friends and others.

The leaflet suggests a gentle, humble approach rather than aggressive proselytizing or imposing one’s faith on others. COLF invites Catholics to deepen their personal relationship with Jesus Christ through prayer, study of the faith and more frequent participation in the Eucharist and the sacrament of Reconciliation.

COLF focuses on Jesus the Son of God, laying out the Gospel message in a way that makes it easy to share with others. Invite Catholics who have fallen away to come back to Church, and invite others to “come and see” and be prepared for when a friend might ask, “What must I do?” to know Christ.

Evangelization is not just for priests, bishops and those in religious life, COLF insists, but is part of the call of all the baptized. It’s also the call of families as domestic churches, the leaflet says.

“God is counting on us, as parents, to make our children apostles of the new evangelization,” it says. “Whoever speaks of evangelization is obviously speaking about relationships, because we must enter into relationship with another person to be able to share with him or her the secret of our happiness.

“By nature, we are relational beings, because we are created in the image of God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit, eternally in relationship,” COLF says.

Evangelization, especially in the family, is not composed of “great speeches or theoretical lessons but through everyday love, simplicity and daily witness.”

The leaflet has a section entitled “Riddle time!” that has a question and answer format that is easy to share with children. It also includes a page with discussion questions for adults that would be appropriate for small group discussion.

The document is downloadable from Colf's web site at www.colf.ca. A workshop guide is also available.

Published in Canada
September 26, 2012

Family society’s rock

New data from Statistics Canada that shows the traditional family is in decline comes as no surprise but that doesn’t make the findings any less troubling.

Canadians who live alone now outnumber couples with children. Fewer people than ever are getting married and they’re having even fewer children. Single parenting is rising, as is common-law and same-sex parenting.

It is premature to declare the traditional family structure as dead, far from it, but it’s certainly suffering. From 2006 to 2011, the number of children living in either common-law or single-parent households shot up by 22 per cent. One-third of Canadian children are now living in non-traditional family households, compared to about 10 per cent 50 years ago. That gap between traditional and non-traditional parenting will only become more narrow as young people continue to reject marriage to live common-law, as high divorce rates and pre-marital births create more single-parent homes and as same-sex parenting increases. The data has been moving in that direction since the 1970s and nothing indicates the trend will change.

What is surprising, however, is the nonchalant reaction of Canadian society to this radical reconstruction of family. Studies have found that stable, loving, two-parent (mom and dad) families make for a healthier society. Indeed, many studies suggest society suffers when traditional families and the values they instill are replaced by alternate child-rearing arrangements.

Families are the bedrock of civil society. They are the primary teachers of right and wrong, the place where values and morals are instilled and the foundation is laid for good citizenship. They are the place where children learn to love, give, co-operate, compromise and pray. It is also where they learn how to be good moms and dads.

Children raised in traditional families are less likely to fall into drug or alcohol abuse, criminal activity, depression, promiscuity, and they are less likely to grow up in poverty. They have better success rates in school, work and marriage, and they tend to become better parents themselves.

Catholics further recognize the sacredness of family as rooted in Scripture and promulgated by the saints and Church leaders. Speaking recently to a group of French bishops in Rome, Pope Benedict called family the foundation of society but said the foundation is threatened by “a faulty conception of human nature.”

“Marriage and family are institutions that must be promoted and defended from every possible misrepresentation of their true nature, since whatever is injurious to them is injurious to society itself.”

So the prudent reaction to the decline of the traditional family would be a thorough evaluation by society of this worrisome trend. To blithely accept it as an inevitable, even commendable, evolution of society is something we do at our peril.

Published in Editorial

It may be the world of make believe, but the British drama series Prisoners’ Wives is all about a harsh, complex reality. The producers of the BBC show and people who work with prisoners and their families hope the series sparks a conversation about the social cost of incarceration.

“When a man or a woman goes to jail the whole family does the time. It changes everything in the family dynamic,” Deacon Mike Walsh of the Friends of Dismas told The Catholic Register.

The Friends of Dismas, an ecumenical ministry for ex-prisoners in Toronto, is launching a new support team dedicated to working with families of those on the inside.

That makes Prisoners’ Wives “very timely,” Walsh said.

Prisoners’ Wives has been picked up in Canada by Vision TV and airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. It tackles the stories of four women with loved ones who are imprisoned — Lou, who has tried to escape poverty by selling drugs; Francesca, who has risen to fabulous wealth on the criminal entrepreneurship of her husband and now loses it all; middle-class, middle-aged Harriet, who finds herself bewildered and isolated when her son goes to jail; and pregnant Gemma, who gradually learns her husband is not who she thought he was.

The women find themselves on a journey of discovery about themselves and their relationships while the men inside struggle to keep up. Both the prisoners and their wives have to answer basic questions.

The family dynamic of prison life hasn’t often made it to either the big or the little screen. While there are plenty of cop shows and prison dramas about the lives of criminals and workings of the criminal justice system, there are no great films about wives, children and parents left behind.

“In popular entertainment, TV drama, have people thought about the plight of prisoners’ wives before? No. Uh-uh,” said executive producer Rebecca de Souza. “It’s delightful, because we could be the first one’s to do it.

“There are a lot of spiritual journeys prisoners have to go through. (Harriet’s son) Gavin goes on a pretty misguided spiritual journey. He thinks it’s a spiritual journey but it really isn’t.”

But the writers, directors and actors had no easy, well established film clichés to fall back on. Instead they had to do hundreds of hours of research talking to prison families, chaplains, guards, social workers and prisoners.

“It was a fantastic opportunity for POPS (the British charity Partners of Prisoners) and other organizations to engage with and influence the public dialogue as well as making the public aware of the support services we offer,” said POPS policy and research officer Rebecca Cheung. “(The show) raised a number of key issues such as the bullying of children of prisoners and the diversity of individuals affected by imprisonment.”

The show has been successful enough in the UK to be picked up for a second season and POPS has noticed much more conversation in British media and on social media about prison issues from the point of view of families.

“Families of prisoners are generally speaking invisible,” said Cheung. “Prison life in the UK conversely receives quite a lot of attention.”

Public dialogue is obsessed with punishment but ignores social costs, said de Souza.

“Is he being punished enough? Is he being rehabilitated enough? Should they be allowed televisions in their cells? We’re all very interested in those subjects,” she said. “What people don’t talk about is the massive community around him that is equally affected.”

Walsh for one hopes the drama might prick up a few ears to the real spiritual needs of real prison families.

“(Imprisonment) has a ripple effect we often never think about, and it is a time when the parish community needs to come together in support,” Walsh said.

Published in Arts News

It’s a never-ending cycle of games

This is not a rant against organized sports. My kids have been involved in sports for many years, mostly because of my husband. Basketball, ringette, hockey, baseball, volleyball — you name it, they’ve played it. 

We’ve travelled far and often to take our kids to games and tournaments. We’ve met hundreds of players, parents and coaches and shared with them the satisfaction of playing hard and the thrill of victory. There have been many good times.

But it’s often been a struggle to balance sports and family life. We’ve just barely finished baseball season and now hockey is upon us. Thank goodness my husband and I agree that, as a family, we should never miss our holy obligation of Sunday Mass in the name of a game. Even on tournament weekends, we always find a church and never miss Sunday Mass.

Still, as someone who didn’t grow up with sports, I have been known to lose my cool when sports trumps family life. I even spoke to a priest about it, not that I got much sympathy. He warned me to be careful about succumbing to the spirit of division and suggested I embrace sports as a family event instead of bickering over it.  He must have grown up with organized sports!

So over the years I have heeded that advice and supported my family’s obsession with sports. I’ll never be an expert but I like to think I’m a keen observer. I know that most athletes and coaches are uninterested in the observations of a Catholic woman whose formative years revolved around the church and not an arena or baseball diamond. But I’m going to share some observations anyway.

It seems to me that many Catholic parents don’t make sure their children attend Mass as religiously as they get their children to games. And why do some boys wear their Sunday best to an arena and not to church? I can’t believe the number of times I’ve seen boys wearing white shirts and ties to minor hockey games, but not to church on Easter or Christmas. It makes no sense to me.

I also wonder why Catholic athletes and coaches obey the rules and regulations governing sports but balk at the rules and regulations of the Catholic Church. Also, I’m appalled by the spending on superfluous extras by many sports teams. Do kids really need two jerseys, track suits, customized hockey bags, leather winter jackets, spring jackets, pants, hats, hoodies, drinking canisters and various other team paraphernalia that display the team logo? I wish team organizers would consider how many more kids could benefit from team sports if fees were reduced by eliminating these extras.

Then there’s the schedules. There were years when one of our kids had a game on Thanksgiving, Ash Wednesday, Easter Sunday, a family birthday and during the Christmas week. Of course, Sunday is always fair game for the schedule makers. These games often interfered with our holy obligations and relations with our extended family. On the secular celebration of Halloween, however, one league cancelled all the games so the kids could go trick or treating.

Another concern is that a generation of kids has grown up winning participation trophies. What does that teach them? Shouldn’t a trophy be something you earn? If we’re going to spend so much time at sports, we should be teaching kids that, in addition to fair play, they need to learn about winning and losing because life is like that.

If I had my way, there’d also be classroom sessions for Catholic parents and players to learn how sports can enrich family life and be used to grow in virtue. Yes, it would be a tough sell, but I’d love to see sessions on what various popes and Catholic thinkers have said about the value of sports and about its place in culture.

I’d open with what St. Ignatius of Antioch said in the first century: “Exercise self discipline, for you are God’s athlete; the prize is immortality and eternal life.” Much better for young athletes to be pondering that than to be discussing Don Cherry’s latest rant from Coach’s Corner.

Finally, as another hockey season begins, I’ve heard the lament of many wives about being neglected after the first puck is dropped. So say a prayer for us and, dads, it doesn’t hurt now and again to surprise us with a dozen roses or take us dancing or out to the theatre.

Published in Guest Columns

CALGARY - Four new priests were ordained here on the Feast of Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More, a most grace-filled day for the diocese of Calgary in its centenary year. It was a blessing for me to be on hand to witness some family friends ordained, and then later to join in the joy of a First Mass at my home parish of St. Bonaventure.

Priestly ordinations are rather fewer than we need these days, so to have four young men is remarkable, all the more so as they all came from local parishes. Their vocation stories are a combination of old patterns and new ones. Two went almost straight from high school, the others after some time working. Their vocations were nourished in Catholic families and inspired by good priests. As is common today, World Youth Day had a significant impact too.

Published in Fr. Raymond de Souza

They say you can’t teach old dogs new tricks, and that may be so.

But there is something special about an old dog, and he (or she) can often teach an owner a thing or two. Puppies are adorable, but old dogs are like comfortable shoes that when slipped on can sometimes walk us to unexpected places.

(If you’re not a pet lover, I implore you to stop reading immediately and move onto something else in The Register. These meanderings from a sappy dog lover will only frustrate you.)

Published in Robert Brehl

MAYNOOTH, Ireland - The Vatican official who will act as papal legate for the International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin defended marriage based on the church's traditional teaching and urged Catholics to use the resource of the family to confront the challenges of secularized societies.

Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, head of the Congregation for Bishops, made his comment in his keynote address to open the International Theology Symposium at St. Patrick's College June 6.

Published in Vatican