Sunday, March 15, 2009

40 Days for Life

Today I attended a Mass marking the 20th day, or the mid-point of 40 Days for Life. This is a 24/7 prayer vigil held on the sidewalk across the street from an abortion facility. The targetted abortion clinic is diagonally across the street from our parish church, St. Charles Borromeo. From the little knowledge I have of it, the 40 Days for Life movement is an intensive prayer effort coupled with the sacrifice of praying outdoors for an end to abortion. The prayers are focused first of all on the clients, the young pregnant women who seek to end the life of the child within them. There were some extremely cold days and nights in the past 20 days. I pray that the sacrifices made by men and women of all ages and walks of life will save many children from extinction in abortion mills. Our Archbishop Thomas Collins quoted one of G. K. Chesterton's Father Brown stories about a man who wanted to steal from Father Brown. The would-be-thief tried to distract Father Brown with highfalutin language so as to steal a cross from him. Father Brown broke into the man's rambling by quoting the Ten Commandments: "Thou shalt not steal." Thou shalt not steal is a commandment, not an option. So too "Thou shalt not kill" is not a suggestion. It is a commandment. May abortion be replaced by a love for and a culture for life. May 40 Days for Life continue on for all the days of this year. I pray that both America and Canada be places where love for unborn life is a priority among all citizens.

The penance which the 40 Days for Life participants practice reminded me again of St. Patrick whose feast is on Tuesday. There is a place of pilgrimage in County Mayo, Ireland, in a little village near the town of Westport. Pilgrims walk or drive to a visitor center from where they climb a steep rock strewn hill. It is said that in the year 441 A.D. St. Patrick spent 40 days in prayer and fasting on that mountain. Croagh Patrick, as it is called, has been a place for Christian pilgrims and penitents since the earliest of Christian days in Ireland.
For more information on Croagh Patrick check out the web site:
Tomorrow evening, March 16, for those who can tune in, watch the story of the wave of Irish immigrants who came to Toronto in 1847: Death or Canada. It will tell also the story of Toronto's first Catholic prelate, Bishop Power.
Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Friday, March 13, 2009

St. Patrick and Wearing of the Green

Today at morning mass a gentleman was dressed in a green shirt, green jacket and a sequined oversize green bow tie. Apparently he was headed to a St. Patrick's Day celebration. Sunday there will be a parade in St. Patrick's honor in Toronto; on Sunday evening the Canadian History channel (if I am not mistaken) will air a special called "Death or Canada." It tells the story of just one year of Irish immigration to Toronto--1847. It was a sad reality for thousands of Irish: either die of famine, or immigrate to North America.
An article I read several months ago told the story of Irish children whose parents had died aboard "coffin" ships moored in Montreal's harbor. There were scores of orphans alone in a strange country and ignorant of the language. At a Sunday Mass the children filled the front pews of the Cathedral. At the end of Mass the doors were closed. The Bishop told the people that the children needed homes. The parishioners were asked not to go home until each child also had a home. From then on many "French Canadians" were really Irish immigrants taken in and adopted by French speaking Canadians. One set of brother and sister began to cry when they were being separated. The couple who had chosen the boy, figuring he would be an asset on their farm, took in his sister. At their death, the couple who had raised the two orphans, left them both all of their property. Only God knows how many times similar stories were repeated as waves of immigrants spilled onto Canadian shores.
In Toronto, the area around the Basilica of St. Paul at Queen and Power was the site of many Irish immigrants whose sacrifices built the original church on that site.
I am of Irish descent. It was instilled in us that the Faith was our most important heritage. Thanks to St. Patrick for the gift he brought to the Emerald isle and to so many parts of our world because of his perseverance.
May St. Patrick pray for all of us!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Today I read a comment on my last post on the Big Seven Capitol Sins. The comment said that, like a bad egg, once it is cracked open, things get worse. Thanks to the person who sent his comment.
Today's Gospel tells us that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. He told his apostles that suffering and humiliation awaited him. They were put off by what He said. How could the Messiah be a Man of Sorrows? I can sympathize with the Apostles. Suffering is not something our nature seeks after. Yet we know from experience that the Cross is always somewhere. Jesus carried his. He gives us the grace to carry ours.
During this world wide financial crunch there are in-laid crosses: Perhaps the cross is hidden in the restrictions of a very tight budget; it may mean working harder with less pay; putting up with disappointments and other inconveniences. Bearing our own shortcomings and those of the people with whom we live is a daily cross. When we allow Jesus to live in us, we are able to bear the weight of our daily share in His passion. Mpther Thecla Merlo, the first Mother General of the Daughters of St. Paul said, "Even if we cannot always be joyful, we can always be at peace!" Keeping our eyes on the Prize--Heaven--helps us to have a light heart as we journey with the Lord this Lent.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Get rid of PALE GAS

Lent is already in its second week! I came across some notes I made a few years ago in a Lenten journal: PALE GAS. I thought to myself, "What's that?" The seven letters represent seven sins, better known as the capitol sins. These are the ones we struggle with that have little "side bars" attached to them. The first is pride; then comes anger; then lust; then envy, the "green monster"; the letter g stands for gluttony, which can also be cholesterol laden and a real killer; avarice is the second A, another name for greed; sloth, the last, is the one that lets everything slide downhill. Some of the side bars may be arrogance, gossiping, stinginess, sadness when certain others do well, and I miss the mark. The three main "works" of Lent are geared to diminishing the effects of Pale Gas. These three are prayer, fasting and alms giving. Honest prayer and the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit help us to recognize the inroads of Pale Gas. Grace also helps us to apply the remedies which open us to the gifts of the Spirit.
Last weekend I spoke to two groups about St. Paul and Lent. Lent was not yet instituted when Paul was alive. His sufferings and imprisonments made his life as an Apostle one long journey, very similar to our Lent. He said to the Galatians (2:19)"I am crucified with Christ." In Ephesians 4 he says to "live a life" worthy of our calling.
Some of the people whom I met did not realize that many of the hymns and songs we use at Mass are words from the Letters of St. Paul. Today we sang one of the "Pauline hymns" called "Only this I Want."
May St. Paul help us to continue our Lenten journey toward Easter with humility and determination. I like the short prayer our Founder, Blessed Alberione, gave us: "By myself, I can do nothing. But, with God, I can do all things. To God the honor and glory; to me Paradise!"