Fr. Raymond J. de Souza

Fr. Raymond J. de Souza

Fr. Raymond J. de Souza is the pastor of Sacred Heart of Mary parish on Wolfe Island, and chaplain at Newman House at Kingston, Ont.’s Queen’s University.
January 9, 2014

History repeating

In an elegant touch, Pope Francis announced his trip to the Holy Land on Jan. 5, the precise 50th anniversary of the historic meeting in Jerusalem between Pope Paul VI and the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras.

The dominant news story for theCatholic press in any year of apapal election is the conclave itself.Except this past year, when it wasthe cause of the conclave, namelythe utterly unprecedented papalabdication of Benedict XVI. Therehad never been a freely chosenresignation by a pope whose legitimateelection was not in dispute.Yet the abdication and conclave asthe Catholic news story of the yearwas soon overtaken by fascinationwith the new Pope, particularly hisrhetorical style.

KINGSTON, ONT. - On Thursday evenings, we have a Mass and dinner for our students at Newman House, which is just across the street from the Queen’s University campus. At the end of the semester our evening Mass coincided with the Queen’s Bands practising on nearby Tindall Field. At least that is what we surmised as my homily was delivered with background music, recognizable as the repertoire of the marching band.

The death of Nelson Mandela has produced the most extravagant laudations, and his funeral rites have attracted a parade of the great and the good not seen since the funeral of Pope John Paul II, and which will not be seen again until the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. I made my own modest contribution in the National Post, praising Mandela for the virtue of magnanimity, that large-heartedness which enabled him to renounce vengeance first, and political power later.

At the general audience of Nov. 20, the work of Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz was presented to Pope Francis. The sculpture, Jesus the Homeless, is a striking image of a homeless person sleeping on a park bench. With the face wrapped in a heavy blanket against the cold, it is impossible to tell who it might be. Only the feet are exposed and then it becomes clear who it is — there are the marks of the nails. It is the crucified one, Jesus Christ. There is space on the bench for someone to sit down alongside the sleeping, homeless Jesus. One could well imagine the Holy Father, with his heart for the poor and the suffering, sitting alongside someone on that bench. In St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis beheld the statue and then blessed it.

KINGSTON, ONT. - Local Catholic Tony Vella had an effective evangelizing idea. How to remind local schoolchildren about the birth of Jesus amid the commercial clutter of the season? The St. Paul the Apostle parishioner thought that the best way to remind children about Jesus was to show them, well, Jesus.

It’s been a long time since the Church has had to learn about a new pope. The shocking election of 1978 meant that Catholics the world over scrambled to discover who this Karol Wojytla from behind the Iron Curtain was. But the election of 2005 gave us a man already well-known to the world for more than a quarter century, Joseph Ratzinger. So with the election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope Francis, people are fascinated with a hitherto unknown man for the first time in more than three decades.

One of the lovelier aspects of Catholic culture is the love that Catholics have for their priests. Most priests have many stories of how complete strangers have shown special warmth and affection upon seeing the Roman collar. As for one’s own portion of the flock, parish priests and chaplains know how eager Catholics are to love their priests.

Nov. 9 is a rather obscure feast on the liturgical calendar — the feast of the dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran. Obscure, but most important. A year when we are praying for a new Pope is a good occasion to revisit its significance.

At the heart of the liturgical year are the great feasts of Christmas and Easter, the feast of eternal life becoming earthly in a new baby, and the feast of earthly life becoming eternal in the Resurrection. The Christian calendar hangs upon the great feasts of life. Yet notwithstanding the principal feasts, the opening days of November, the month in which we pray for the dead, are a direct answer the Church gives to the mystery of death. All Saints Day celebrates those who have died and are already enjoying the life of beatitude in heaven. All Souls Day prays for those who have died and, while still being purified in purgatory, will one day be in heaven. The Church does not ask us to look away from death. To the contrary, in November she forces us to look straight at it.