A decided purpose will open up future choices

A young man I have known since cutting his umbilical cord 25 years ago will, if all stays on plan, be awarded a doctorate by an Ivy League university in about two years.

Along the way to his PhD, he earned a Master’s degree at Oxford after graduating from one of the Quebec universities whose students have been rioting in the streets since February.

Politics needs faith’s blessedness

On May 1 in Ottawa I had the pleasure of delivering a speech to politicians and others at the annual National Prayer Breakfast. Below is an abridged version of that address.

My topic is “Faith in our Common Life: Why Politics Needs Religion.” But permit me to say a few words first about why politicians need religion.

Exactly one year ago, many of you were in the final moments of a federal election campaign. It was a Sunday and the people’s verdict was to be rendered the next day. On a typical Sunday morning I am found in my parish on Wolfe Island, in the St. Lawrence River across from Kingston, but a year ago I was in Rome awaiting the pronunciation of a rather different judgment. Pope John Paul II was declared blessed.

The healing power of forgiveness

The other day, I finished a terrific page-turner and then picked up the newspaper to read about the latest attacks on the Christian faith, this time in Saskatchewan. They were two seemingly unrelated things that really got me thinking, searching deep down.

The book is best-seller Unbroken written by Laura Hillenbrand about a courageous American airman during the Second World War. If you’ve not read it, pick it up because it’s difficult to put down. But let’s talk about Saskatchewan first.

Pope’s early years marked by brotherly faith and love

ROME - With the papal birthday and anniversary last week, attention in Rome was understandably focused on reviewing the seven-year pontificate of Benedict XVI. I had the unexpected pleasure though of reading about the other end of the Holy Father’s life — the early years of his Bavarian youth.

Last year an interview book was published by Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, the pope’s older brother. They were ordained priests together in 1951 and have enjoyed a close relationship through the years. After his election as Pope, the younger brother, Joseph, was not able to travel to Germany to spend time with Georg, so now the monsignor comes several times a year to Rome to spend time with his little brother, the Pope. They had originally planned to retire together to their home in Regensburg, but the events of April 19, 2005, permanently altered that plan.

Obvious to all but Fr. Gravel

Quebec’s euthanasia debate must be getting horribly confusing when even a Catholic priest doesn’t know the right answer to whether the practice should be legalized.

It must be doubly so when the priest is also a former MP who knows — or should know — that euthanasia can be made legal only by amending the federal Criminal Code.

Yet here was Fr. Raymond Gravel, the one-time Bloc Quebecois MP for a Montreal-area riding, musing about whether killing the elderly, the weak and the suffering might be just what the doctor ordered for Quebec’s health care system.

Rejoice in the day the Lord has made

OTTAWA - “I have never been in a church this big,” said one soon-to-be ex-Anglican priest to Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa in the sacristy of St. Patrick’s Basilica on Divine Mercy Sunday.

The occasion was a solemn Mass in the “Anglican Use” to receive some 40 members of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada into full communion with the Catholic Church. The several dozen new Catholics will form a quasi-parish that, while fully Catholic, will celebrate the Eucharist according to approved liturgical books which draw upon their Anglican heritage.

What happened to the art of civil discourse?

No doubt, some people will be offended by this column. Seems whatever is said about Catholicism offends someone these days. Even the most benign comment is challenged. Instead of listening to and discussing other points of view, there is a tendency to shout at those who see things differently.

Think I am exaggerating? Take a quick spin on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and elsewhere and you’ll easily find the shouting, name-calling and misunderstandings. (Just Google “Catholic faith arguments” or “contraception” or “women priests” as starting points and then simply click away.)

A nation’s story is not told only in politics

OTTAWA - About a month ago it was cardinals’ week here in the nation’s capital. Our chaplaincy at Queen’s University was hosting the visit to Canada of the archbishop of Bombay, Cardinal Oswald Gracias. Given that it was his first visit to our country, and that he was flying into Ottawa, it was arranged that he would visit Parliament. The Speaker of the Senate, Noel Kinsella, received him and gave him a tour of the red chamber and the speaker’s offices. Afterward, the Speaker of the House of Commons, Andrew Scheer, hosted a dinner in Cardinal Gracias’ honour.

Trampling on rights

Something unsettling is happening when conscience becomes a dirty word in a liberal democracy. Yet most Canadians seem unfazed by the increasing tendency to treat our fundamental right to freedom of conscience as if it were some unspeakable anti-social offence.

The denial of conscience rights to marriage commissioners in Saskatchewan, the obliteration of parental rights in Quebec, the imposition of state sexual ideology on Catholic schools in Ontario — these should all be causing deep concern. In none of these cases, after all, have the aggrieved parties taken the law into their own hands. They have not shouted fire in a crowded theatre, the time-honoured test of the limit of free speech. All they have sought is their Charter-protected right to be exempted from legal or regulatory obligations that violate their deepest and most sincerely held beliefs.

Into the silence

Holy Week is not a particularly tranquil time for a priest.

In the midst of all the activity, I find Good Friday is the most resonant. My favourite service is actually extra-liturgical, the preaching of the Seven Last Words in our cathedral. It’s a two-hour service of readings, hymns and meditations, reflecting upon the seven times Jesus speaks from the cross. I have been preaching the Seven Last Words for nine years now, accompanied by the students at Newman House, who provide the music and do the readings.

Resurrecting age-old argument

There has been much fuss recently about ancient burial boxes and whether the bones of Jesus remain here on Earth.

In March, an Israeli antiquities collector was acquitted of forgery charges concerning a Roman-era burial box inscribed “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.” If genuine, the ossuary could be a direct link to Jesus and His family.

And next week, Vision TV will air The Jesus Discovery, a documentary by Toronto filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici that claims to cast new light on the Resurrection. It bills itself as: “Part archeological adventure, part biblical history, part forensic science, part theological controversy, The Jesus Discovery is a story that will carry around the world.”