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.

It’s rare that a bishop indicates publicly how he intends to vote. But recent events provoked just such a response in the United States.

President Barack Obama announced on Jan. 20 that his health care plan would require all employers to purchase health insurance for their employees which would cover contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs. While churches with a moral objection would be exempt, universities and hospitals would not be. The upshot would be that Catholic institutions would be forced to purchase products directly contrary to the dictates of a conscience properly formed by the teaching of the Church.

Is it over? Yes and no. It was 10 years ago this month that the sexual abuse crisis exploded in the archdiocese of Boston, with reverberations across the world.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, sent to Boston in 2003 as archbishop to right the reeling ship, has written at length on the 10th anniversary. He is quick to argue that the sexual abuse crisis is not over. It’s not over principally because sexual abuse is not something a victim simply gets over. It’s also not over because the process of purification and penance is a path the Church cannot abandon.

CALGARY - Inglewood is an old neighbourhood in Calgary, the sort of place where you find a church nestled between modest homes, rather than surrounded by a vast suburban parking lot. But something new is happening here, or something old becoming something new — or perhaps even something new becoming something old.

The parish of St. John the Evangelist used to be an Anglican parish, but just a week before Christmas the pastor, Fr. Lee Kenyon, his wife Elizabeth, and almost the entire congregation of about 75 souls were received into full communion with the Catholic Church. Bishop Frederick Henry of Calgary received the group and graciously welcomed into his diocese a new parish. They call themselves an “Anglican Use” oparish, meaning that while fully Catholic and in communion with the bishop of Rome, they use a form of the liturgy more in keeping with their Anglican traditions.

Faithful readers may recall that I spend the last days of the year with hundreds of university students, ringing in the new year at the annual Rise Up Conference of Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO). This year it was the largest Rise Up conference yet, with more than 500 students in attendance. So large has the annual gathering become that CCO will stage two such conferences in 2012, one in the west (Saskatoon) and one in the east (Halifax).

There are a number of priests who attend every year, and we are always thanked repeatedly for our presence. The students love their priests, like to have us accompany them and rely on us for the sacraments. But as I said to Fr. Thomas Rosica, who has been to even more Rise Up conferences than the eight I have attended, we are the ones who are truly blessed, to see the Church as she ought to be — vibrant, joyful and youthful. 

Gaudete Sunday must have been rather memorable at the throne of judgment. On Dec. 11, Cardinal John Patrick Foley died at the age of 76, after a long and distinguished life of service as Christian disciple and a Catholic priest. On the same day, Fr. Karl Clemens, a priest of the archdiocese of Kingston, died after a life marked by scandal and estrangement from the Church he served so poorly.

Cardinal Foley was a pioneer in the Catholic media, going to Columbia Journalism School soon after his ordination in 1962. A priest of the archdiocese of Philadelphia, he edited their Catholic newspaper from 1970 to 1984, and then was called to Rome to be president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. It was there that he became known as the “Vatican’s voice of Christmas,” providing the commentary for some 26 years for midnight Mass, the world’s most watched religious broadcast. For those who knew him in person, rather than as a journalist, it was his kindness, humour and deep faith which made him an exemplary face of the Church.

At a vigil Mass the night before his funeral, Bishop Daniel Thomas, for whom he was both a friend and a spiritual father, spoke of Cardinal Foley as the “best of Philadelphia, the best of the priesthood, the best of the Church.”

I am eagerly looking forward to Dec. 18, the fourth Sunday of Advent this year. Since I have been ordained a priest, I have offered the following Opening Prayer:

Lord,
Fill our hearts with your love,
and as you revealed to us by an angel
the coming of your Son as man,
so lead us through His suffering and death
to the glory of His resurrection,
for He lives and reigns…

Less than two weeks after we began using the new translation of the Roman Missal, parishes and priests are getting used to the new prayers. Before the novelty wears off though, we ought to note that the very fact that the new translation exists at all is a promising sign for the Church’s witness in the 21st century.

Consider simply this: Whether at a parish in Bombay or Belfast, whether the Mass is being offered in Brisbane or Brandon, Catholics are praying the same prayers. For a universal Church whose liturgy is in Latin, that should not be surprising. Yet over the past decades centrifugal forces have been strong in the Church, with a certain liturgical mentality taking hold that emphasized the differences in various localities rather than the unity. When differing educational jurisdictions within a single country have a difficult time harmonizing their curriculum and examinations, it is no small achievement to have a single English translation used both in South Africa and South Dakota.

My fellow Catholic Register columnist Peter Stockland and I may just be crazy. After writing thousands of columns between us, we certainly know that some readers think so! But this craziness is somewhat different. We have decided to start a magazine.

It’s called Convivium (www.cardus.ca/convivium), and a special preview issue was launched in October. We start bimonthly publishing next February. Convivium literally means life together, though the word is often translated to mean banquet or festive meal; hence the “convivial” person is one who would enliven such an occasion. Our subject is just that — our common life together as Canadians. Specifically, we claim to be about faith in our common life.

BALTIMORE - Last week the bishops of the United States gathered in their premier diocese and protested the erosion of the founding liberties of the American republic. In their annual plenary meeting the bishops designated threats to religious liberty as a key pastoral concern. The American bishops are right to be alarmed, but not only them. Religious liberty is under threat all over the world.

The most grievous attacks are lethal, with Christians being killed for their faith in Egypt, Iraq and India, just to mention the sites of massacres in the last year. Then there is the routine and brutal persecution of Christians in communist states, like China, or Islamist ones, like Saudi Arabia. Indeed, the vast majority of acts of religious persecution around the world are against Christians.

The death of Bil Keane, cartoonist and evangelist of culture, was a reminder that even the former can be an instrument of the latter.

Keane, who died on Nov. 8 at the age of 89, drew the Family Circus cartoon for more than 50 years. It launched in 1960 — during a leap year on Feb. 29 — and is still being published. The one-panel comic was in the form of a circle, and Keane had originally called it the Family Circle. A popular magazine of the same name objected and so Keane changed it to Family Circus, the protest from the eponymous periodical proving serendipitous, for the antics of Daddy, Mommy, Billy, Dolly, Jeffy and PJ were often circus-like.