Election campaign strangely silent on Catholic education

The Ontario election campaign has been on for a few weeks now and I have yet to hear Catholic education mentioned once.

That’s odd, considering all three main party leaders are graduates of the Catholic school system.
 Yet none of the three main parties specifically mention Catholic education or faith-based education in their platforms.

In the 2007 election, it seems that’s all we talked about.
The Ontario Progressive Conservatives promised to extend funding for faith-based schools beyond the Catholic system and include Protestant, Jewish and Muslim schools. The Liberals met that proposal with derision, claiming there should only be one public system that did not divide Ontario.

Literature that pieces together Church’s beauty

The first book that made me think seriously about Catholicism, that made me realize the depth of the faith and exposed its beauty to me, was Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain.

It literally put me over the hump past any lingering issues that were keeping me outside the Church.

The 1948 autobiography of the young American’s route from New York intellectual and man about town to Catholicism and finally the Trappist monastery in Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky is one of the great modern spiritual journeys.

No better family time than dinner

I had to laugh the other day when my son kidded me at dinner time: “Steak? I don’t like steak!” He playfully suggested pizza, and my daughter chimed in that she wished I’d made a tossed salad instead of Caesar.

They reminded me of the teenage wisecracks I used to make about my mother’s cooking and, chuckling, I thought of how family dinners have been at the centre of my life since I was a little girl.

Not too long ago, a visitor from California was astonished to learn that our family gathered for a hot sit-down dinner almost every day.  

“Do people really still do that — have family dinners?” he asked.

A great father-son chat, and I owe it to the cemetery

It’s back-to-school time and, as the TV commercial jingle goes, “The most wonderful time of the year” . . .  for parents.

Reflecting on the summer holidays with our two children, aged 12 and 15, it was challenging at times juggling work and kids’ needs and demands. But, overall, it was clearly a “two thumbs up.”

What really tipped the balance for me was an impromptu, father-son excursion to a graveyard. It sounds a little strange, maybe even morbid, but hear me out.

My son and I were in Toronto running errands when it struck me that we were not far from Mount Hope Cemetery.

“Mind if we make a short detour?” I asked, needing to repeat the question after he finally pulled out his ear plugs.

Song, joy, chaos, silence: why we flocked to Madrid

On the morning after the concluding Mass of World Youth Day in Madrid, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims were still roaming the streets with their flags and songs, and hundreds of buses were being loaded with luggage and weary pilgrims. An estimated 1.4 million people packed the Cuarto Vientos Airforce Base on Aug. 20 for the overnight Vigil and 1.5 million people attended Sunday Mass with Pope Benedict XVI the next morning.

Organizers, however, were not too pleased to admit that 250,000-plus pilgrims, including many Canadians, were turned away from the site due to overcrowding. I wonder if Spain was ready for the influx of so many pilgrims. Even many of the 6,000 accredited journalists got nowhere near the principal venues.

So, yes, there was much to be desired about the organization of this mega-event of the Catholic Church. But organizational issues were not the full story. No matter what was said during countless discussions around tapas, sangria and cerveza in Madrid, abundant seeds were sown. We must now pray for a bountiful harvest.

For me, some special memories from Madrid will endure.  

Charles Lewis: Catholics, Mormons share similar American past

Republican presidential candidate Mitt RomneyThe depth of Roman Catholicism is so great it can keep those of us in the faith captivated for many lifetimes. And because of the Church’s position in society — a religion with one billion adherents, a head office that is actually a state, and facing endless criticism for moral positions that grate secular society — it is no wonder we can become obsessed with our own position in the world.

I spend an inordinate amount of time reading Catholic web sites and a theme that seems to emerge is that we are part of a mistreated, misunderstood minority. We should absolutely defend ourselves against prejudice and repression, combat plain ignorance and overcome the horrendous stereotype that the Church is a breeding ground for sexual abusers. But once in a while it is good to see which other religious group is taking it on the chin.

Last month I went to the Hill Cumorah Pageant, the annual celebration of the founding of the Mormon faith, at Palmyra, N.Y., where Joseph Smith, the religion’s first prophet, is said to have found gold tablets containing a new book of Scripture. I knew a little bit about Mormonism before going to Palmyra: that they used the Book of Mormon alongside the Old and New Testaments, that they believe a lost tribe of Israel settled in North America around 600 BC and that Jesus visited that tribe a few days after His resurrection. I have since learned they believe the dead can be baptized into the faith and their leaders are prophets who regularly receive revelations from God.

Robert Brehl: Searching for answers in this summer’s reading

Two-thirds through, few could argue that 2011 has been a good year. What with global economic turmoil, the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, Middle East unrest, famine in Africa, rioting through Britain (and Vancouver), a child-hunting mass murderer in Norway, continued child abuse scandals within the Church, and despair ladled generously at almost any turn.

I am not a pessimist. Really, I’m not. I am not, as Oscar Wilde said, one who when given a choice of two evils picks both.

I am just trying to raise my spiritual and moral understanding during these troubling times. I doubt I am unique; merely an average person. (In fact, I was once described as a schmoe by one of my friends. An apt description, even if it came from an atheist.)

I am no scholar and I am no theologian. I am a husband and a father living in suburbia. But, probably like you, I often wonder why things happen. Why were those innocent little children hunted down and mercilessly killed in Norway? Where was God’s protection? Why can’t we get food to those hungry children in Africa?

Fr Stan Chu Ilo: World must step up for drought-stricken Africa now

A woman walks past carcasses of cattle in the drought-stricken Eladow area in Wajir, northeastern Kenya, August 4. The drought, the worst in decades, has affected about 12 million people across the Horn of Africa.Africa is facing another humanitarian crisis as the worst famine in recent memory grips Somalia’s Southern Bakool and Lower Shabelle regions. According to the United Nations, tens of thousands of Somalis, mostly children and women, have already died and an estimated 3.7 million people — more than half the country’s population — face starvation in the next year unless relief is provided.

Mark Bowden, the UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator for Somalia, said the country has the highest malnutrition rates in the world, reaching 50 per cent for children under five. In some cases, he said parents have thrown away children during the punishing trek to the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya.

Oxfam President Mary Robinson has called the humanitarian crisis an international disgrace. The situation is more painful because experts saw it coming and it could have been avoided. Many Somali women and children are crying for help and waiting for the rest of the world to save them from death.

Kitty McGilly: Dublin Eucharistic Congress a chance to move forward

Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, left, stands with Cardinal Sean Brady as they announce plans for the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin. The congress will take place June 10-17 next year.DUBLIN - The 50th International Eucharistic Congress, to be held in Dublin next June, is being anticipated locally with the same optimism that was experienced when the congress came to Ireland in 1932. That event was a critical moment in modern Irish history, healing many wounds after the Civil War and drawing together in unity the Irish population, predominantly Catholic, under the umbrella of the Roman Church.

On that occasion a million people gathered for Mass, celebrated by the papal legate, in Phoenix Park and famous Irish tenor John McCormick sang Panis Angelicus. After years of dissent the people of Ireland were challenged to move forward in faith and solidarity.

Such a unifying occasion, one to promote hope, is again very much needed as the Church in Ireland faces tremendous troubles. Rocked by the extensive clerical abuse scandals and consequent decline in Church attendance it is an unprecedented time of turmoil.

Peter Stockland: Church caught up in good news — for once

Fr. Thomas Dowd has been named as a new auxiliary bishop of MontrealMONTREAL - The Catholic Church was featured on the front page of my daily newspaper recently. Predictably, the page also overflowed with talk of corruption, scandal and child abuse.

This time, however, the sordidness was not another predictable media rehash of all that ails Catholicism. In fact, it involved something else entirely.

The story about the Church was — you might want to sit down for this — actually a very good news article about the naming of Fr. Thomas Dowd as a new auxiliary bishop of Montreal. Sure, there were the boilerplate paragraphs about the global sexual abuse scandal — I think all reporters’ computers are programmed to plug in such references by default — but the story on Dowd actually treated his appointment as a real event.

It was seen as eminently newsworthy that he is (a) an ecclesiastical stripling of 40 and (b) fully conversant in, and a ready practitioner of, social media such as blogging, Twitter, Facebook and so on.

Dorothy Pilarski: Some dos, don’ts when you enter the House of God

Dorothy PilarskiOne day at Sunday Mass a well-meaning dad arrived with a large plastic bag from a popular store. It contained a big, new toy for his young son. Something to entertain him during Mass. I can still see the bag’s big, green logo appearing from behind the kneeler, interrupting prayers.

Being a brand new toy, it was in plastic packaging that was torn open in the middle of Mass. What a racket! Several people nearby, including me, were mortified.   

I had to fight all my motherly instincts to lean over and give the man a scolding. What I really wanted to do was tug him out of the church by his ears and ask him: “What are you teaching your child? Do you want to teach him that no matter what is happening around him he is entitled to have fun?”

I often attend performances of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at Massey Hall. I am inspired by the pages at the back of the program that detail standards of behaviour for symphony-goers. Sections under several categories define the expected etiquette and courtesy to be extended to others at the symphony. For example, it says latecomers and anyone leaving the hall will be admitted at a suitable interval. It asks patrons to refrain from wearing perfumes or colognes and forbids cameras and cellphones.