TORONTO - For the 19th year running, the Fairmont Royal York Hotel is offering “room at the inn” for out-of-town families visiting hospitalized relatives at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital, Casey House Hospice and Hospice Toronto.

The Room at the Inn program offers families up to 10 guest rooms for a maximum of seven nights free of charge.

“It relieves some financial burden especially at this most difficult time of year for them,” said Eduarda Costa, administrative secretary for the social work office at St. Michael’s Hospital. “It allows families to be at the patients’ bedside offering support for a longer period of time.”

Published in Canada: Toronto-GTA

Christmas ornaments featuring a kneeling soldier and the words “Never Alone/Jamais Seul” are being sold in a campaign to raise awareness of Canada’s new war veterans.

The campaign is run by Jane Twohey, a Military Christian Fellowship of Canada volunteer from Port Perry, Ont., northeast of Toronto.

Twohey wants to commemorate the service of Canadian soldiers and chaplains serving in missions around the world through the Christmas ornaments.

Published in Features

A glance at the mantle this time of year can give the average Catholic entirely the wrong idea about the Bible.

“You see creche scenes — they cram everything from both Gospels (Matthew and Luke) in there, not realizing that if you line up both those Nativity stories there are inconsistencies and contradictions,” said Jesuit New Testament scholar Fr. Scott Lewis. “Don’t try to mix the four Gospels together. Then you just get a meaningless glop.”

The popular mash up of sentimental baby imagery found everywhere from creches to Christmas cards to movies on TV is a problem for priests preaching on Christmas morning, said St. Peter’s Seminary Scripture professor Fr. Richard Charrette.

Published in Features
December 13, 2011

Christmas wishes

Our consumer society is afflicted by a “commercial contamination” that spikes in December. As Christmas approaches, we stay busy decorating, partying, drafting our wish list or buying and wrapping gifts for others.

In this mad rush we too often become guilty of neglecting the authentic peace, joy and spirit of Christmas. This is a season to celebrate Christ’s coming with prayer and reflection and also a time to look beyond our own family and friends to reach out in joy, charity and prayer to the forlorn and forgotten.

Published in Editorial

Mary gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.

In the Christmas story, we have always vilified and demonized the innkeeper who turned Mary and Joseph away, leaving them no choice for shelter except a stable. And the lesson we took from this was the need for greater hospitality in our lives, the need to not be so busy and preoccupied that there is “no room in the inn,” that is, that there is no place in our busy lives for a messiah to be born, for Christmas to happen.

Published in Fr. Ron Rolheiser

Anyone who has been passing newsstands lately will have noticed that magazine covers aren’t what they used to be. They’re more showy and sensational, much different from days gone by.

At Christmastime especially I have noticed more magazines and advertisements shouting out “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” It drives me crazy.

My 86-year-old mother has also noticed this change. She made a comment the other day that made me pause.

Published in Guest Columns

As far as I can tell, there is no such thing as a Christmas resolution. It seems resolutions belong exclusively to New Year’s Day and normally involve such self-help promises as lose weight, exercise more, quit smoking, pay off the credit card, learn a new language or take dancing lessons.

But maybe Catholics should shift their emphasis to resolutions that reflect the birth of the Saviour and make promises that align ourselves to what the Incarnation means to us in our Christian pilgrimage.

Published in Guest Columns
December 13, 2011

A Filipino Christmas wish

TORONTO - This Christmas season, a group of Toronto Catholic students will be living Jesus’ Gospel of love and caring for others by helping to build homes in the Philippines.

From Dec. 27 to Jan. 10, 18 students will take part in the Philippines Study and Leadership Experience. The trip is being run by Adventure Learning Experiences in partnership with the Toronto Catholic District School Board.

Marshall McLuhan Catholic Secondary School, Loretto Abbey, Cardinal Carter and St. Michael’s Choir School are some of the eight  schools taking part. One student from the York Catholic District School Board will also be going.

Published in Youth Speak News

Since early November, stores have been filled with Christmas decorations and an endless stream of Christmas music.

I forced myself to believe that maybe all this excitement had something to do with people eagerly expecting the birth of Jesus. Sadly, there is a limit to how much one can deceive themself.

How many children think of St. Nicholas and blessings at Christmas, not Santa and presents? How many times have I gaped at a suddenly precious item without mentally adding it to the Christmas shopping list? Zero.

Published in YSN: Speaking Out

TORONTO - While people are busy shopping at the Eaton Centre this Christmas season, a reminder of the true meaning behind the season will be present right next door to it.

Since 1938, The Christmas Story has been performed at the Church of the Holy Trinity, reminding audiences why we celebrate Christmas. 

Being performed for its 74th season this year, the Nativity play tradition has endured, reaching out to both veteran and new audience members.

Published in Youth Speak News

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI tapped a tablet computer and successfully lit the world's largest electronic Christmas "tree" located in the Italian town of Gubbio.

Before turning on the tree with a tap on the Sony S Tablet, the pope addressed the citizens of Gubbio via a video link from his apartment in Vatican City Dec. 7, calling on Christians to serve as a light in the lives of others.

In his talk, the pope said that just as the tree design in Gubbio was made up of tiny individual lights, each person needs to bring light to the people and places in their lives, to their family, workplace, neighborhood, town or city.

Published in International
December 7, 2011

Charity and temperance

Turkey, roast beef, ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables and fruitcake are just a few of the many items sure to grace shopping lists everywhere as Christmas approaches. Facing so many impending seasonal feasts, it seems the best thing to do is to loosen your belt and prepare for the onslaught of dinner courses. As the days get shorter in the winter months, the meals get longer and Christmas’ transformation into a festival of excess is all too apparent.

This abundance of food, however, is hard to recognize amongst all the cheer and good will. After all, what can be wrong with sharing a hearty meal between friends and family? The problem arises when wastefulness occurs. To acknowledge such wasted food, one must change their perspective — precisely what happened to me when I returned to my high school to participate in a program called ThinkFast. The program acts as a fundraiser, allowing students to raise money while committing themselves to a 24-hour fast. In addition to raising money, the students meet to collectively bond as a group, reflect on their faith and discuss what it really means to be hungry.

Published in YSN: Speaking Out

This Christmas season, the stories of five diverse people and their journey to the Holy Land to discover the season’s true meaning is airing on CTS’s Journey to Christmas.

The goal of the four-part documentary series was to discover if there was more to Christmas than is typically experienced in North America, said producer Karen Pascal.

“We’re so caught up in the commercialism and the busyness and the gift-giving and I think the true meaning of Christmas has become something really distant,” said Pascal.

Published in Arts News

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.

Published in Joanne McGarry

At Advent I’m flooded with memories of childhood and growing up in a devout Polish immigrant home. My family’s life revolved around Toronto’s St. Stanislaus Kostka Church at Queen and Bathurst. I would be there several times a week for catechism classes, Polish school, youth group, Polish folk dancing, my dad’s choir practice, mom’s Legion of Mary.

During Advent there were church rehearsals for the parish Nativity play, one of the biggest Sunday afternoons of the year when we’d await the spectacular visit from St. Nicolas. Dressed like a bishop, he brought goodies for all the kids.

Published in Guest Columns