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.

The Fourth Sunday of Lent is Laetare Sunday — the Sunday of rejoicing, complete with rose vestments to lighten the Lenten purple. It complements Gaudete Sunday — the Third Sunday of Advent — but poses a puzzle.

The Big Bang has captured the scientific and popular mind as the spectacular beginning of the entire universe. There is even an eponymous sitcom which, to judge from what is available on airplanes, might just be the most popular television program ever made.

I was a little nervous about Pope Francis’ meeting with the clergy of Rome last week. As a seminarian and a new priest, I always looked forward to Blessed John Paul’s annual Holy Thursday letter to priests. To my disappointment, Pope Benedict XVI did not continue that tradition, but replaced it with an annual encounter with the clergy of Rome in the first days of Lent. Pope Francis opted this year to continue Benedict’s practice, and so met with the parish priests of Rome last week.

Last week we had the honour of hosting Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, in Kingston at the annual St. John Fisher Dinner. The Fisher Dinner, named in honour of a great man of letters before his courageous defence of marriage and martyrdom under Henry VIII, supports the work of our Newman House Catholic Chaplaincy at Queen’s University and the missionaries of Catholic Christian Outreach who are an essential part of our mission.

As we approach the first anniversary of Pope Francis’ election, I received a thoughtful e-mail from Mary, a regular reader of The Register. She complained that my columns “undermine Pope Francis.”

Last week, Feb. 11 was marked everywhere in the Catholic world as the first anniversary of the abdication announcement of Benedict XVI. Understandably so, for it was without precedent — the very definition of news — and it opened the door for a renewed energy and enthusiasm under Pope Francis.

A quadrennial custom I look forward to is writing a column mocking the absurdity of the Winter Olympics. Hockey aside, silly sports contested by people otherwise unknown somehow become moments of national pride. “Cheering on the oddballs” was how my editor headlined the 2010 version for Vancouver. Hoist the maple leaf — our man won skateboarding on snow!

Papa is in Rolling Stone. Which is not exactly what The Temptations sang in 1973, but then at that time who could have expected that the Pope — then Paul VI — would have been on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, the magazine of pop music, with occasional forays into cultural criticism?

The visit of Stephen Harper to Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan has been judged a success. Israel’s government was ecstatic for Harper’s steadfast support, the Palestinians overlooked that and were grateful for tens of millions in Canadian aid for schools and security. There were good media reviews at home, and favourable contrasts were drawn with the last visit of a Canadian prime minister to Israel, Jean Chretien’s bumbling and error-strewn tour in 2000.

JERUSALEM - I have been to Israel more than a dozen times — as a pilgrim, leading pilgrimages, with my family, on a private retreat, for Christmas, for Holy Week, for board meetings, for the papal visit of 2009 — but never for something quite like this. I was invited to be part of the official delegation accompanying Prime Minister Stephen Harper on his visit this week to Israel and the Palestinian Authority (West Bank).