February 11, 2018
World Day of the Sick
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Catholic health care has been an integral part of the Church’s pioneering and evangelizing ministry in southern Alberta that precedes the founding of the province. Inspired by the charisms of religious congregations, many of these Catholic health ministries continue to enrich the lives of Albertans today bringing important spiritual and ethical dimensions to our health care system.
Our Catholic ministries are a vital part of the Church’s response to the needs of our aging population, providing healthy environments and services to help seniors flourish as active and vibrant contributors to our community, as well as care for those who face the difficult challenges that come with declining health. I am extremely grateful for the work of our parish pastoral care volunteers and the Catholic organizations such as Father Lacombe Nursing Home and the Covenant family of providers – Covenant Health, Covenant Care and Covenant Living.
As providers of hospital care, seniors’ care, outreach services and palliative care, our Catholic health providers continue the healing ministry of Jesus upholding the sacredness of life and honoring the vital link between spirituality and healing as women and men follow their calling to serve each other with compassion and respect.
In recent years, Covenant Care and Covenant Living’s service to our Diocese has grown. Since 2013, Covenant Care has expanded its supportive living and hospice care to three sites in Calgary—Holy Cross and St. Marguerite Manors located in the Evanston neighborhood, and St. Teresa Place in the Redstone neighborhood. In the past year, Covenant Living has also established a retirement living community in Calgary at Evanston Summit with suites and apartments for seniors. These are welcome additions to our Catholic community.
Pope Francis in his message for the 26th World Day of the Sick writes, “… the work of Catholic religious congregations and dioceses and their hospitals is aimed not only at providing quality medical care, but also at putting the human person at the centre of the healing process…”
I encourage you to visit and learn more about these caring communities that live out our Catholic faith and tradition with fidelity and compassion. Let us keep healthcare leaders, caregivers, and the people they serve in our prayers.
Yours in Christ,
† Most Reverend William T. McGrattan, D.D.
Bishop of the Diocese of Calgary
In his Message for this year’s World Day of the Sick, Pope Francis looks to the Cross of Christ for redemption from suffering and to Mary as Mother of the Church, a mother who looks out for all her children. The Pope’s example of practical accompaniment of the sick, the dying and the elderly is shown in his frequent visits to hospitals, seniors’ homes and in his loving attention to the sick and people with disabilities who come to his weekly audiences. Accompanying and encountering the sick are watchwords of his ministry of mercy, and an example of how Mary looks after her children. We, too, can support the sick through many different organizations and in many varied ways:
- We can work politically to ensure that our health care and social service systems will focus on not only direct medical services, but will also strive to improve the social determinants of health.
- In order to optimize infant and child healthcare and to be intentional about disease prevention as life begins, we can make political demands in their interests.
- We can also support the claims of those employed in health care and social services who are overworked or underpaid.
From the Catholic viewpoint of improving the common good, we must ask whether our national budgetary provisions for health care are sufficient? If not, are those who are more financially secure willing to pay more so that others may benefit, beyond accepting an already somewhat heavy tax burden?
We are becoming more aware of regional injustices, even at the level of not having clean water available – in Canada! In 2018! We know this need not be, so we are challenged to respond.
- Some will be called to take political and social action to improve our health systems on behalf of the sick, as above.
- Some are called to be of great practical assistance to the sick, the frail and the elderly. volunteering in hospices, in hospitals and long-term care homes.
- Some participate in athletic and other events to raise awareness for specific charities and causes, at the same time persuading other people to support those causes financially.
- Many people are involved professionally in responding to the needs of the poor, the homeless, the elderly, those with addictions and so on, and many give their time and talents in other ways – financially, personally and spiritually through donating, volunteering, praying and raising awareness through their personal witness and commitment.
At an international level, Canada contributes large amounts in government aid to many countries and organizations, and many of us do so in a smaller way, through financial support of organizations that help medically and socially.
- Instead of birthday gifts, we can ask for a well (or part of one!) to be built in a developing country; we can ‘send’ friends some goats, pigs or chickens – redirected, of course, to a family who will benefit directly from them.
- We can send medical supplies and educational materials through organizations such as Chalice, based in Nova Scotia, while many hospitals such as St. Joseph’s in Hamilton send medical teams with suitable supplies to help in countries in need, in this case, Haiti
We can be inspired by many local examples of accompanying and encountering the sick in the spirit of Pope Francis. Here are a few examples that have struck me recently:
- In the Archdiocese of Québec, teams of two are going out to visit the sick, the lonely and the vulnerable – all people who need our special care and attention, even more so in today’s world.
- I have a priest friend who started to visit the psychiatric ward of a local hospital, making himself available for conversation to anyone who would like to chat. Being ‘listened to’ is a great gift, and another form of accompanying the sick.
- I just heard recently from two sisters I know who have left their full-time careers to look after their other sister with early signs of dementia, in order to keep her at home in her own surroundings and involved in family life as long as possible.
We all know parish nurses who look after the elderly, the housebound and the sick in their local areas and who include prayer, a spiritual dimension and parish ‘talk’ in their visits, which many homebound people miss.
I am sure there are countless examples we can all give of how we accompany and encounter the sick, and Pope Francis reminds us that the prime example is Mary. She stood at the foot of the Cross, sorrowing no doubt, but she was THERE, accompanying Jesus to the end. Aware of this, it is natural that we should turn to her for encouragement in our accompanying and encountering those who need it support!
Mary, Help of the Sick, pray for us!
Moira McQueen, LLB, MDiv, PhD
Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute
Here is a possible option that Catholic parishes, ministries, schools or organizations may wish to consider if applying for the Canada Summer Jobs program:
- Print out the application form
- Strike out the following clause which is currently the third bullet point in the Attestation: “Both the job and my organization’s core mandate respect individual human rights in Canada, including the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights. These include reproductive rights and the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, mental or physical disability or sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression”
- Insert the following clause (which would become the fourth and final bullet point in the Attestation: “I attest my organization will abide by the law in our hiring practices and all our other activities.”
- With the new bullet point having been added, check the box “I attest”.
- Mail or fax the completed application form by the deadline 2 February 2018.
This should highlight well how faith groups and media are questioning the government’s approach, especially in view of the Charter’s protections for the fundamental freedoms of religion, conscience, thought, belief, opinion and expression which are at stake.
Recently I took up the task of re-organizing cupboards, drawers, and files at home. Some of the things I do not use daily but consider important enough to keep offer a bittersweet mixture of memories. More sweet than bitter now are items that remind me of my father, who died fifteen years ago this month. The surprise discovery was a hastily sketched diagram of my father’s family tree. It is in my handwriting so I must have asked him to tell me all he could remember some time before he died. Although I was ruthless in discarding things I no longer needed, I carefully slid this paper back into the folder with a plan to transcribe the diagram into an electronic format for preservation. Otherwise, I revisited items that I know very well: dad’s silver pen, his harmonica, a cardigan. I don’t bring them out too often because although they carry the fondest memories they also evoke the strongest longing. Focusing on items that belonged to a loved one we miss is a powerful act of devotion. When I hold dad’s pen I recall the vigour reflected in his handwriting. When I pick up the harmonica I hear not only the music but also the joyful laughter that accompanied those occasions when he played. When I wear the cardigan, I almost feel his arms around me. These somatic, physical reminders are usually a comfort though sometimes too much to bear. More than a memory in and of themselves, the items convey the actions, personality, and relationships of the person we love, inviting us to experience that love again and to continue sharing that love in the world. For the same reason, Catholics venerate the relics of the saints.
“The religious sense of the Christian people has always found expression in various forms of piety surrounding the Church’s sacramental life.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1674). One of the earliest examples of the veneration of relics comes from the second century after the Bishop of Smyrna, St. Polycarp, suffered martyrdom by burning at the stake. The Church of Smyrna wrote a letter to the rest of the Church describing the events surrounding the martyrdom. Near the end of the letter, the authors explain the dual purpose of veneration of the body: commemoration of the one who has died and training for those who continue to live the faith.
And so we afterwards took up his bones which are more valuable than precious stones and finer than refined gold, and laid them in a suitable place; where the Lord will permit us to gather ourselves together, as we are able, in gladness and joy, and to celebrate the birth-day of his martyrdom for the commemoration of those that have already fought in the contest, and of the training and preparation of those that shall do so hereafter. (The Martyrdom of Polycarp, trans. J. G. Lightfoot, accessed January 10, 2018).
Consider that the martyrs are those who suffered bodily and lost their life in the flesh on account of their faith in Christ. Therefore, it is not incidental that the faithful of Smyrna venerated not an abstract symbol of their Bishop but the remains of his physical body, which was the vehicle for his witness to the faith. God works through the instruments of the saints on earth and so the relic of a saint does not have magical power but is a sign of God’s work. By venerating the relic, we show that God’s work in the saint’s life of holiness is to continue in the world through us.
Our faith is incarnational; our salvation rests upon God taking human flesh, followed by the suffering and death of that flesh, and its resurrection on the third day. The veneration of a bodily relic may seem gruesome considering that we rightly concentrate on loving life, saving lives, and protecting life. However, if we pause to consider with the eyes of faith, we realise that the crucifixion was gruesome and the mortal body does die. But the gruesome aspect is only half the picture. The eyes of faith also see the glory of the resurrection. At the end of the Nicene Creed we profess that we look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. We profess our belief not only in Jesus’ resurrection but also our belief that “God, in his almighty power, will definitively grant incorruptible life to our bodies by reuniting them with our souls, through the power of Jesus’s Resurrection.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 997). The bodily relic of a saint that strikes us as gruesome is in actuality a reminder of the dignity due to all human bodies. As St. Paul taught, the body, a temple of the Holy Spirit, is relevant even after death.
What of the commandment to worship God alone? Devotional practices, such as the veneration of relics, must be properly understood and be experienced as an extension of the liturgical life of the Church so that they advance the knowledge of the mystery of Christ and do not become permeated by superstition (cf. Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 13). Classical theology makes a distinction between adoration (latria) and veneration (dulia). Adoration is worship due to God as the Creator. Veneration is a sign of reverence or respect shown to a created person. Our religious practice reflects this distinction. The gesture of genuflection is a sign of adoration and is therefore reserved for God alone in the Most Blessed Sacrament and for the Holy Cross from the solemn adoration during Good Friday until the beginning of the Easter Vigil. Only God is to be adored so it is not appropriate to genuflect towards a relic of a saint. To show respect to the saint for his or her holy life in a gesture of veneration, you might bow your head, kiss, or touch the relic or case in which the relic is held (called a reliquary). Relics are often born in procession, shown to the sick or the dying, and an impetus for asking the intercession of the saint for healing. If the faithful are blessed with the relic, they should kneel during that blessing.
It may be difficult to look with bodily eyes on the forearm of St. Francis Xavier that you are invited to venerate in our diocese on January 21 or 22, 2018. Yet, in the same way as the items used by my father inspire me through their physical qualities to experience and take up the inner qualities of his love, so the bodily relics of the saints, gazed upon with the eyes of faith, invite us to recognize God’s work in the saint’s holy life and to continue that work in our own lives.
By Dr. Simone Brosig
Director of Liturgy, Diocese of Calgary
Broken Brain video documentary series
- Starts January 17th, 4 pm (6 pm ET)
- Hosted by Dr, Mark Hyman, a functional medicine physician, this series looks at the root causes of mental illness and other brain diseases such as dementia.
- Sign up at www.brokenbrain.com
Presentation: The Chemical Imbalance Myth: Developing a Common Sense Approach to Depression
- When: Saturday, January 20th, 9-11 am
- Where: Hawkwood Baptist Church
- No cost to attend, but please call 403-239-6200 to reserve seats.
Mood Mastery - 10 week workshop for mental wellness
- When: starts Thursday, Feb 1st, 7-9 pm
- Where: Rocky Mountain Calvary Chapel, 8241 31st St SE
- Cost: $450 ($100 deposit due at registration)
- For more information write to Dr. Magda at this email.
Mental Wellness Mondays with Magda
- When: The first Monday of every month, 7-9 pm (excluding June-Sept)
- Next session February 5th: Ten Tips for Healthy Sleep
- Where: Rocky Mountain Calvary Chapel, 8241 31st St SE
- No cost. Note: These sessions will be faith-based.
- When: Saturday, April 14, 9 am to 2:30 pm
- Where: Alzheimer Society of Calgary (800 - 7015 Macleod Trail SW, Calgary, AB)
- Cost: $25.
- Please register before April 11, 2018 to 403-218-5501