Sunday’s shifting solemnities

VATICAN CITY - Consistories for new cardinals are usually held on major feasts, and the most recent one had a lesson for the liturgical life of parishes.

Blessed John Paul II held six of his nine consistories on Petrine feasts — three for Sts. Peter and Paul (June 29), two for the Chair of Peter (Feb. 22) and one for his silver jubilee as Successor of Peter in October 2003. Benedict held his first consistory in 2006 on the Feast of the Annunciation, and his next two on Christ the King in 2007 and 2010. This year he chose the Chair of Peter, the feast which highlights the role of Peter and his successors in authoritatively teaching the deposit of the faith.

Anonymity and ignorance

On Feb. 17, the Supreme Court of Canada rendered its decision on a case that tested the right of parents to exempt their children from Quebec’s Ethics and Religious Culture (ERC) course. The case attracted many intervenors because the decision could impact other cases that question the lengths government can go to impose curriculum against parental wishes.

About one month earlier, the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association released a report, “Respecting Difference,” which set guidelines for promoting equity and respect for all students in Catholic schools. It followed months of controversy surrounding “gay-straight alliances” in Ontario’s publicly funded schools. While there are differences between the two scenarios, both concern a provincial government trying to impose a school policy despite objections from parents.

Who needs parents when we are blessed with government?

Credit Air Canada with cluing me in to the bracing effects of the state sticking its imperious snout so deeply into Canadian society.

There I was on a recent cross-country flight waiting for someone in authority to give the malfunctioning in-flight entertainment system a good whack when the little screen was suddenly alight with visual metaphor. From the depths of one of the boundless bureaucracies that spend our quarter-trillion-dollar federal budget, we strapped in travellers were shown a videographic public service announcement on a matter so urgent it was deemed essential viewing for an audience that cannot escape.

The logic of the Gospel is a challenge, and remains so, even for cardinals

VATICAN CITY - Attending a consistory for new cardinals is something of an ambivalent thing. On balance it is a positive experience, a festive occasion to be sure. Yet there is also an uneasiness, for there are touches of worldliness about it which ought to make a Christian disciple wary.

A consistory is truly a celebration of something particularly Catholic, namely the Roman and Petrine dimensions of the Church. Such occasions of pride and joy strengthen the faith, as they reinforce the bonds of affection that unite Catholics with the successor of St. Peter. The link between the local bishop created a cardinal and the Bishop of Rome is evident enough, and it highlights the communion of all local bishops with the See of Rome, and therefore the unity of the Church universal.

Whitney Houston and the challenge of our 40s

The death of singer Whitney Houston at age 48 set off an interesting discussion around the dinner table about the 40s decade. Why are the 40s so dangerous for some, especially the famous?

Think about all the great stars who’ve perished in their 40s: Judy Garland, Elvis Presley, John F. Kennedy, George Orwell, John Lennon, John Candy (who grew up in Holy Cross parish in Toronto) and so many more. Many, but not all, contributed to their early death through lifestyle choices.

A very special day for NAC

ROME - In her more than 150 years, the Pontifical North American College will never have a day like Feb. 18, 2012. Pope Benedict XVI will elevate to the College of Cardinals not one, but two, former rectors of the seminary in Rome. Both Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, who served as rector from 1994-2001, and his immediate predecessor, Archbishop Edwin O’Brien, Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, will receive the red hat.

Some politicians just can’t understand what’s good for the goose...

Politicians given enough rope will invariably hang themselves, figuratively speaking of course.

Such is the case with Parti Quebecois justice critic Veronique Hivon, whose clamor for legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide should, if there is any justice, now be choked off for good and all.

Madame Hivon came hard out of the chute to condemn Quebec Tory Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu for his recommendation, later withdrawn, that our most notorious convicted killers be left alone in their cells with a length of state-supplied rope.

A caring man worthy of the red hat

A consistory for new cardinals is a serious affair. Forgive me then for telling a story about Thomas Christopher Cardinal-designate Collins that is less than serious, but with a serious point about the man. Which is how Toronto’s new cardinal usually does it himself — serious substance in a man who does not take himself too seriously.

On Feb. 18, Collins will receive the red hat, a cardinal’s biretta fashioned from watered silk. One of my first encounters with him involved another hat — a toque, to be precise.

God save our Queen!

In one of those happy liturgical coincidences — or better, providences — Feb. 6 brought the following reading from the First Book of Kings at Mass:

“The elders of Israel and all the leaders of the tribes, the princes in the ancestral houses of the children of Israel, came to King Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the Lord’s covenant from the City of David, which is Zion. All the people of Israel assembled before King Solomon during the festival in the month of Ethanim (the seventh month). When all the elders of Israel had arrived, the priests took up the ark; they carried the ark of the Lord and the meeting tent with all the sacred vessels that were in the tent. (The priests and Levites carried them.) King Solomon and the entire community of Israel present for the occasion sacrificed before the ark sheep and oxen too many to number or count.”

Self-indulgence before Lent

Faith and Las Vegas are an oxymoron. But these two seemingly paradoxical thoughts rattled around in my head as we walked down the busy, glittery Las Vegas strip the other day for the first time.

Sure, Sin City has different types of temples filled with moneychangers of a modern ilk. These temples are named Caesar’s Palace, the Mirage, the Venetian, Bellagio and a host of others. And, sure, churches are hidden so far out of sight that you’d think illusionist David Copperfield made them disappear.

Prayer, sport and whose side is God on?

Super Bowl Sunday marks the end of the football season and a look back at the year that was. On the field it was the year of the quarterback, with Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford, Eli Manning and Aaron Rodgers all putting up eye-popping numbers. Off the field, the chatter was about one quarterback, Tim Tebow of the Denver Broncos.

His improbable story was captivating enough, coming off the bench in mid-season to lead his team to the playoffs with one last-minute victory after another. It was his Christian faith, though, that sparked an international discussion about whether faith had a place in sports, whether God was on Tebow’s side or whether Tebow thought God was on his side, or whether in fact God thought He ought to be on Tebow’s side.