It’s been said that Catholics have a saint for virtually every situation, event or possibility. Some of the more unusual include a saint for fireworks, unattractive people and dysentery (Saints Barbara, Drogo and Smyrna in that order)! Without being disrespectful, it is hard to imagine there being a saint of hangovers, oversleeping or caterpillars, but yes they do exist. There is even a Patron Saint of Beer (St. Arnulf of Metz). On the cool but strange side of the spectrum, St. Hubert of Liege is the Patron Saint of the Fear of Werewolves, while St. Columbanus is the Patron Saint of Motorcyclists. I will leave it to another time to muse on how St. Isidore of Seville, who died in 636 AD, is the Patron Saint of the Internet!
For all of the more unusual saints there are of course those most widely embraced and understood, from St. Valentine to St. George, St. Francis of Assisi to St. Joan of Arc. It’s also fair to say that many saints are invariably connected to a particular culture, from St. Mary MacKillop in Australia, to St. Kateri Tekakwitha for the First Nations in Canada, to St. Patrick in Ireland.
One of the most popular events at St. Mary’s University in Calgary is our annual hosting of our September Ghost Tour, an event that opens the campus to the community, that re-enacts scenes from our history, and that helps to mark our anniversary. As a Catholic university I often field questions from the media about why we are celebrating Hallowe’en, and I am always at pains to point out that we are, in fact, celebrating the stories of the institution’s founding, and not the feast so popular in October.
As a child, however, I was always confused that Hallowe’en preceded All Saints’ Day and wondered how they were connected. Needless to say I eventually learned of the rich thread that linked All Hallows’ Eve (31 October), to All Saints’ or Hallowmas (1 November) to All Souls’ Day (2 November), and I grew to look forward to the celebrations that acknowledged the saints that have transformed our faith life throughout the ages. Despite this long tradition, it remains a mystery to me how some saints have come to represent their particular attributes. Perhaps it’s enough to know that whatever befalls us, the saints have us covered! And now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to say a prayer to St. Francis de Sales, Patron Saint of writers and journalists.
Some parishes in our diocese have memberships to the website Formed.org, enabling their parishioners to access Catholic resources hosted there. Formed.org is an online platform, which some have nicknamed the “Catholic Netflix.” It hosts an impressive amount of content including Bible studies, presentations on the sacraments, on Catholic thinkers, saints, and theology. Formats include video programs and feature films, audio presentations and downloadable books, all accessible on demand through the Internet. You may already be familiar with some of the programs used in small group parish settings, such as the Symbolon Bible study or Fr. Michael Gaitley’s retreat, 33 Days to Morning Glory. At the website these are all available to revisit whenever and wherever you are. The website is simple and reliable to use and has proved very popular with many parishioners I have spoken to.
Recently I checked Formed.org out in depth. I found many things there to encourage and challenge my faith. I particularly liked the Opening the Word segments which give short video commentaries for each Sunday Gospel reading. Designed for RCIA, a printable leader’s guide and participant’s journal are available for each Sunday. Although the translation used is from the New American Bible, differing slightly from the New Revised Standard Version we hear at Mass, the commentary still applies.
I also listened to Keep Holy the Sabbath by Dr. Tim Gray. Gray has an in-your-face style that some will find compelling and convincing but others defensive or alienating. Similarly the video presentation Why God Still Matters by Karlo Broussard, of Catholic Answers, comes out fighting against public atheists, such as Christopher Hitchens, using philosophy and reason to undermine the strident claims that there is no God. While their arguments here are traditional Catholic teaching, the apologetic sensibility of these speakers bleeds into other content on the site giving it an energetic but combative stance, of a church newly embattled (hasn’t it always been?) and a forceful rather than humble evangelization.
Many parishioners have already experienced Dr. Edward Sri as an engaging speaker. I watched his class room discussions with college-aged students as he presented on relativism in Who Am I to Judge?: Responding to Relativism with Logic and Love. Sri made some strong and substantial points that I could imagine using in discussing my faith with others. As a whole the speakers bring welcome clarity to points of theology. It is interesting to note, though, the lack of diversity in style and presentation. It took me a while to discover authoritative women’s voices, although I found Dr. Mary Healy delivering the Lectio Bible Study on Evangelization looking at the Book of Acts. Cut and dried answers and “I know I’m right” fervour leaves little room for real debate. The audio lecture on G.K. Chesterton seems less about the man and his faith than a thinly veiled partisan political speech. This style could alienate some parishioners.
These issues aside all the video that I watched was of consistently high quality and a wonderful starting point for parish meetings and discussion. Parishioners will have to buy workbooks and other resources in order to get the full benefit of some sessions but the content goes a long way to helping form Catholics in our faith albeit with a particular flavour. Formed.org is a great resource for busy parishes although it would be a mistake to think it covers all bases. There is little on Catholic Social Teaching and there is a “preaching to the converted” tone – perhaps not surprising for a “Catholic Netflix,” but which may make it less helpful for new Catholics or inquirers. Still the site is evolving. Perhaps the Augustine Institute, owners of Formed.org could be persuaded to diversify and include Canadian content, or materials on Catholic Social Teaching? It you have the chance I urge you to take a look. Can Formed.org be a wholesome part of your formation in faith?
The Most Rev. William T. McGrattan, Bishop of the Diocese of Calgary, has issued a decree of partial indulgence to be granted during the Jubilee Year of Fatima.
The partial indulgence can be obtained by visiting the Our Lady of Fatima Parish at 4747 30 St. SE, between the dates of April 18, 2017 and December 31, 2017 (see visiting times below). Those who seek to obtain this partial indulgence must "devotedly pray before the statue of Our Lady of Fatima," invoking her intercession.
In addition, the faithful must be reminded, according to the Code of Canon Law, the following:
- "To be capable of gaining indulgences, a person must be baptized, not excommunicated, and in the state of grace at least at the end of the prescribed works" (Canon 996 § 1)
- "To gain indulgences, however, a capable subject must have at least the general intention of acquiring them and must fulfill the enjoined works in the established time and the proper method, according to the tenor of the grant" (§ 2)
In addition, the Holy Father Pope Francis has also granted a plenary indulgence which can be obtained throughout the Jubilee Year, which began on November 27, 2016 and ending on November 26, 2017.
This plenary indulgence is granted through the following:
- By making a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Fatime in Portugal, and "devotedly participate in a celebration or prayer in honor of the Virgin Mary." In addition, the individual must also pray the Our Father, recite the Creed, and invoke Our Lady of Fatima
- By visiting, with devotion, and praying before an image of Our Lady of Fatima that is displayed for public veneration, during the anniversary days of the apparitions (the 13th of each month from May to October 2017). In addition, the individual must "participate there in any celebration or prayer in honor of the Virgin Mary" and pray the Our Father, recite the Creed, and invoke Our Lady of Fatima
- For the elderly and infirm: praying before an image of Our Lady of Fatima and spiritually uniting to God, through the Blessed Mother, all their "prayers and pains, or the sacrifices of their own lives"
To obtain the plenary indulgence, the faithful must fulfill the ordinary conditions: go to Confession, receive Holy Communion, pray for the intentions of the Holy Father, and be truly repentant and have firm resolve to be detached from sin.
Click here to read Concession of Plenary Indulgence, issued from the Shrine of Fatima, in full.
Our Lady of Fatima Parish: Centennial Celebrations and Visiting Times
Address: 4747 30th St. SE. Visiting times are the following: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday (3PM - 8PM). Saturday (10AM - 6PM). Sunday (8AM - 2PM)
- Wednesday, May 10, 2017:
- 6:30 PM - Rosary Followed by Holy Mass
- 8:00 PM - All Generations Will Call Me Blessed: A concert in honor of Our Lady in 5 languages
- Thursday, May 11, 2017
- 6:30PM - Holy Mass
- 7:30 PM - The Rosary Rediscovered: Experience the beauty of the Rosary in its choral recitation, live classical harp music, and teachings by recent Popes
- Friday, May 12, 2017
- 6:30 PM - Rosary followed by Holy Mass
- 8:00 PM - Dramatic performance of the Fatima apparitions (English)
- Saturday, May 13, 2017
- 5:00 PM - Rosary
- 6:00 PM - Solemn Mass presided by Bishop McGrattan, followed by candlelight procession
- Sunday, May 14, 2017
- 12:00 PM - Holy Mass, folowwed by dramatic performance of the Fatima apparitions (Portuguese)
December 12, 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Fr. Albert Lacombe omi. The omi indicates he was a member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, and it is also the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Oblates by St. Eugene de Mazenod in Marseilles, France in 1816.
In commemoration of these milestones, a series of stories from Fr. Lacombe’s fascinating career, focusing primarily on his relationship with Calgary and southern Alberta, will be published in the upcoming editions of The Carillon.
The Black Robe Voyageur
Albert Lacombe was born on February 28, 1827 in St. Sulpice, Lower Canada, a village east of Montreal, in today’s Quebec. He was ⅛th Native American and raised in a French Canadian Catholic culture within a British colony. Born 40 years before Confederation, Fr. Lacombe’s life was immersed in the interaction of the three great founding “peoples” of Canada… Native, French and English.
As a young man he was inspired by the example of his parish priest and enthralled by the stories of voyageurs returning from the Fur Trade in the far North West. He would either be a priest or a voyageur… all or nothing… as it turned out, he became both!
Author Katherine Hughes titled her book, Father Lacombe: The Black–Robed Voyageur. It is a biography that captures the essence of his life as a missionary.
In 1848, not long before his ordination, Albert Lacombe recorded this in his journal: “Sunday night, when the Cathedral was filled, Fr. Belcourt went up to the pulpit and painted in an eloquent way the life and work of his missions. I was struck to the heart. An interior voice called to me, ‘Whom shall I send?’ and I said in reply, ‘Behold, I am here, send me!’”
Fr. George Belcourt, a visiting priest from the North West, was a missionary to the mixed–blood Metis on the Western Plains who were already Catholic. Lacombe was intrigued with the missionary way of life and he had an urge to travel.
So, after he was ordained in 1849, at the young age of 22, Fr. Lacombe journeyed to North Dakota for a two-year apprenticeship in the missionary life with Fr. Belcourt, ministering to the Métis Buffalo Hunters.
Travelling there was an adventure in itself, though. Fr. Lacombe had anticipated some of the hardships of being a missionary, like the physical challenges of surviving away from the comforts of civilization. But what a shock it was for him to face the intolerance of the wider world when he was harassed while travelling through the United States to the Pembina Mission. His sheltered life came to an end when he faced ridicule from fellow travellers for wearing a full–length black cassock, some suggesting it was a dress!
What was his response? Despite contrary advice from friends and colleagues, he proudly and stubbornly would wear the long “black-robe” in public, indicating his priesthood, for the rest of his life.
Back in Montreal by 1851, Fr. Lacombe later met Oblate Bishop Alexandre Taché from St. Boniface (Winnipeg) and asked to join the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, tasked with bringing the Faith to the wilderness of the far North West.
The fruit of silence is prayer
The fruit of prayer is faith
The fruit of faith is love
The fruit of love is service
The fruit of service is peace
These words of Mother Teresa profoundly manifest her life journey. The saga of her life began in her hometown of Skopje (now Macedonia) on August 26, 1910 when she was born. Her birthname was Agnes Gonhxa. Her parents, Nikola and Dranafila Bojaxhiu, were blessed with three children, Lazar, Aga and Agnes.
Mother Teresa remembered her childhood with joy and enthusiasm, although after the death of her father, when she was only nine years of age, financial struggles crushed their lives. While living in Skopje, Sacred Heart Church became an important part of her spiritual journey. The parish priest, Fr. Franco Jambrekovic, used to read letters of missionaries from India to his congregation. This seems to have been Mother Teresa’s first inspiration to later become a missionary to India. Mother Teresa recalled in an interview about her vocation, “I was only 12 years-old when I first felt the desire to become a nun.” Regarding the decision to leave her hometown at the age of 18 she said, “It was the voice of the Lord.” Young Agnes wrote a farewell poem in the Croatian-Serbian language that echoes this truth vividly.
Goodbye, O mother dear
May God be with you all
A Higher Power compels me
Toward torrid India
Agnes joined the Loreto order of Bengal, India in 1928. She began her novitiate in Darjeeling, West Bengal and received the name of Teresa in honour of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. She was appointed to teach at the St. Mary’s Convent School of Calcutta where she was lovingly called by many “Bengali Teresa.” For 17 years, she was a good and erudite teacher, and eventually promoted to principal of the convent school in Calcutta.
In 1946, while traveling on the train to Darjeeling, she heard an inner call to take up a new mission in her life. She explained that this inner call was “call within a call.” In her own words, “I felt God wanted something more from me. He wanted me to be poor and to love Him in the distressing disguise of the poorest of the poor.” On August 8, 1948 she was given permission to begin a new congregation with a special mission to work for the poorest of the poor. She began to wear an Indian sari as her new dress code and began to work in the filthy slums of Calcutta.
Begging was a commonly accepted spiritual practice. In her spiritual book she wrote “ …from my heart I prayed fervently that nothing may spoil our absolute poverty and union with Him. I never understood better than now how very nothing I am.” It was this that radiated her holiness. In spite of her struggles and challenges she witnessed God’s love and compassion. She saw the face of God among the orphans, lepers, destitute, and poorest of the poor. She touched many troubled hearts, she healed many sore wounds, she gave hope and peace to many empty lives. She became a channel of peace. She believed in authentic works. Her messages were always very short, but stunning and captivating. She said, “Hearts to love and hands to serve” and “peace begins with smile” and “the most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.” Her words could move hearts to conversion.
When I was a seminarian, I met Mother Teresa when she visited Kerala, India. I was blessed to touch her hands while she was greeting many people. She touched my heart. The sight of her image—a short woman, with a stoop walk sharing motherly love and care—is very alive and vivid in my heart. The St. Mother Teresa Syro Malabar Community of Calgary has introduced me to many more friendships with people who were blessed to meet Mother Teresa on different occasions. The canonization of Mother Teresa on September 4, 2016 gives profound joy to everyone, especially to those who have met her personally.