2011 will certainly be a year to remember

Life can be like wine. Some years are simply better than others. And 2011 was a wonderful vintage for me.

Don’t get me wrong, there were some bitter tannins at the bottom of the glass at times, but overall the bouquet was exceptional and the taste robust.

It had to be after beginning the year with a remarkable trip to the Holy Land in January, my first time to walk where Jesus walked 2,000 years ago. It began as a business trip and quickly morphed into a spiritual journey.

    Pray for the souls of two vastly different priests

    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.”

      One prayer, but it says so much

      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…

        This Christmas, don’t forget the things that are truly important

        In this Advent season of expectation and worship, I was thinking about hero worshipping when I noticed that the other day was the 100th anniversary of the birth of my dad’s boyhood hero, Joe “Ducky” Medwick.

        Unless you’re a diehard baseball fan, you’ve probably never heard of Ducky. But everyone in my family knows of him because my late father’s only encounter with Ducky has long been family lore.

          New Missal bodes well for the new evangelization

          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.

            No-win situation with juvenile media’s double standards

            Christians made to look like the bad guy in Russell Peters’ controversy

            When CTV announced that its Russell Peters Christmas special would feature a Nativity skit with Pamela Anderson portraying the Virgin Mary, various entertainment media pundits made predictable witticisms about enraged Christians protesting to the point of giving each other heart attacks. The cheap shots, of course, bear no resemblance to reality. Most Christians only protest the most vile material, and even then tend to reserve judgment until they’ve verified that it’s actually as bad as advertised. By and large, Christians have low expectations of entertainment media and, rather than complain, simply change the channel.

              A common faith... and perhaps craziness in common

              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.

                Author mines the deepest truth of our faith

                The world has few writers with the fervour to publicly trash the  covers of their own books. The world has even fewer writers like Heather King.

                For that reason alone, King’s newly released Shirt of Flame: A Year With Saint Thérèse of Lisieux is the one book I’ve read this year that I would suggest as a guidebook for the pilgrimage of ordinary life.

                  Religious liberty under fire, even in the land of the free

                  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.

                    Penn State can take lessons from the Church

                    The tragic child sex abuse scandal at Penn State opens many wounds for Catholics.

                    During the first seven-10 days after the story broke, almost every media report compared the scandal to abuse that has rocked the Catholic Church over past decades. The comparisons have not totally abated, either.

                    “Like the Roman Catholic Church, Penn State is an arrogant institution hiding behind its mystique,” declared the National Post on Nov. 14.

                      Hate to say we told you so, but... euthanasia is ‘killing care’

                      So our long slide down the slope of civilized savagery proceeds.

                      Agence France Press reports the first public case of a Dutch patient euthanized even though she had never formally requested death or followed the required legal protocols.

                      The woman, identified only as being 64 years old and from the south of Holland, was reportedly killed illegally in a hospital last March. The medical board that approves each act of euthanasia in Holland knew she had never formally asked to have her life ended. It also found she was far too cognitively diminished by Alzheimer’s to make a rational choice in her fate.