The Daily Offices

The Daily Offices from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, (Canada 1962), including daily Bible readings and occasional sermons from the Cathedral of the Annunication of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Ottawa

Monday, June 09, 2008

Keith Clemons on his latest novel Angel in the Alley

1) Tell me a little about Angel in the Alley and the future dystopia you created.

Angel in the Alley is the story of a man, Peter Defoe, and Angela, his seven year old daughter who is dying of cancer. Angela has but one wish, she does not want to die in a hospital; she wants to be at home surrounded by her family. Peter is determined to honor her request, but just as they’re about to leave an international warrant is issued for his arrest. His crime? Illegally distributing Bibles over the internet. This is the landscape I’ve created for my book: a day in which many of the rights we enjoy today have been stripped away. As a society we tend to take our freedoms for granted. Yet all around us the ability to express certain beliefs, particularly those that sanction God, are being eroded. There was a time when having an open discussion on points of disagreement was considered healthy discourse, but that simply isn’t true today.

Certain topics, like that of homosexuality, are taboo, particularly if you’re a teacher or politician. God forbid anyone with a public platform voice the opinion that homosexuality is wrong. To do so would result in their being mocked by their peers, or vilified by the media.

It’s odd to see this in academia where the right to speak and be heard was formerly held as sacrosanct, but we do. Men with substantial academic degrees are being refused publication, denied tenure, and are losing their jobs if they dare discuss Intelligent Design as a possible alternative to the theory of evolution. “Expelled,” a new documentary hosted by Ben Stein, elucidates how the academic and scientific communities are trying to censor anyone who does not toe the evolutionary line.

Even more troubling was a comment I read on the web only a few days ago. The author said, and I quote, “You must be careful folks, religion is responsible for the oppression of murder of millions...” I don’t know where this man got his information, but it wasn’t from history. Most modern wars, and the subsequent murder of millions, were fought to eliminate every vestige of God. Mao Tse-tung’s Communist takeover in China in 1949 led to a bloodbath that slaughtered 38 million innocent people. Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in the killing fields of Cambodia murdered several million more. Joseph Stalin killed tens of millions in the Communist revolution of Soviet Russia. These were political systems that were out to banish God. Hitler murdered six million Jews because he saw them as an inferior race, not because of God’s calling. Genghis Kahn and Alexander the Great didn’t murder in the name of God. They did it to satisfy their lust for wealth and power.

People who say religion is the primary source of war aren’t looking at history. True religion brings life, not death. Yet with all the good brought by people of faith, a survey done in the UK recently said the number one problem in the world today is “religion.” When I look at history, I see abundant evidence that those who held a belief in God have been responsible for some of society’s greatest advances. I see humanitarians like Henry Dunant and Clara Barton, founders of The Red Cross, responsible for saving millions of lives. People like Mother Teresa who waded through the gutters of Calcutta to tend to the outcast and comfort the dying in the midst of unimaginable human suffering. World Vision who feeds tens of thousands of starving children each year. And a number of independent missions that provide comfort to those dying of AIDS in Africa. Men and women of religious faith have used their beliefs to lay a foundation for our just system of government. The founding fathers of Canada and the United States were, for the most part, men of deep religious conviction who based their view of liberty and equality on precepts found in the Bible. British Legislator William Wilberforce worked to end the slave trade in England, as Abraham Lincoln fought to end slavery in the US. Both were devout Christian men.People of faith have fostered art and education. The paintings in the Sistine Chapel and the statue of David would not exist apart from Michelangelo’s religious fervor, neither would the music of Handel’s Messiah, or great works of poetry like Milton’s Paradise Lost. Without the express purpose of providing religious training, we would not have the educational intuitions of Yale, Princeton, Oxford, and Notre Dame.God believing men and women have blessed our world with invention and discovery: Johann Gutenberg invented the printing press, Isaac Newton discovered the laws of motion, and Breese Morse the telegraph, just to name a few. Albert Einstein, Louis Pasteur, Johannes Kepler, Franz Boas, Max Planck, Marie Curie, Gregor Mendel, Alexander Fleming, and hundreds of others were great men and women of faith. Even Columbus, who is credited with the discovery of North America, believed he could cross the ocean without sailing off its edge because the book of Isaiah, found in the Bible, said the world was a sphere.

All of these benefits were granted to us by men of deep religious conviction who felt they were responding to the call of God on their lives. Yet in spite of all the good they accomplished, men still want to remove God from the public square.

This is why, as a setting for my book, I had to invent a different world than the one in which we live. Frank Capra, in his 1946 classic, “It’s A Wonderful Life,” had Jimmy Stewart, alias George Bailey, receive a look at what the world might be like if he’d never been born. What I tried to do in Angel in the Alley was paint a similar picture so people could see what the world might be like without the freedom to worship God.

2) How much does your imagined future have a grounding in present attacks on freedom of speech and of religion that are happening in Canada now

The limitations and restrictions being placed on people of faith today is the very reason I wrote the book. We’re seeing it all around us. Just last month Christian Horizons, a Canadian ministry that assists people with disabilities, was fined by the Ontario Human Rights Commission for firing an employee who was engaged in a homosexual relationship, even though the employee had signed a contract agreeing to abstain from all sexual immorality, including homosexuality.

The ministry had to pay the complainant two years' wages and benefits, plus $23,000 in compensatory damages. In early December, Mark Steyn and Macleans’ Magazine were the subject of a complaint to the B.C. and Federal Human Rights Commissions because of an article in the magazine that included an excerpt from Mr. Steyn’s book “America Alone.” The complaint said the article subjected Canadian Muslims to discrimination, hatred and contempt, when all the article did was quote one of their own Islamic clerics. Ron Gray, leader of the Christian Heritage Party was brought before the Ontario and Federal Human Rights Councils for an article on the party’s website critical of homosexual conduct. Among other things, Mr. Gray was told by a HRC mediator that “freedom of expression is an American concept.”

Pardon me, but I always thought Canadians were as free as Americans. Apparently not.
The Knights of Columbus of Port Coquitlam, BC, were fined by the BC Human Rights Tribunal in December, 2005 for refusing to let a lesbian couple use their hall for a “wedding” reception. It seems The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic organization whose tenets prohibit homosexual union, doesn’t have the right to act on what they believe. Another example happened in 1999, when a Toronto printer, Scott Brockie was ordered by the Ontario HRC to pay a Gay activist group $5,000 for refusing to print their letterhead. The attempt to vilify people of faith isn’t just a local phenomenon. It’s a growing worldwide problem. European author Christopher Hitchens introduced his book, God Is Not Great, to a class of undergraduates at the University of Toronto and a front page story in Canada’s National Post quoted him as saying, “I am absolutely convinced that the main source of hatred in the world is religion.” Entertainer, Elton John, echoed the same sentiment when he said he would, “ban religion completely,” because it turned people, “into really hateful lemmings.” And on the topic of religion, Richard Dawkins, evolutionary biologist at the University of Oxford said “It’s one thing to say people should be free to believe whatever they like, but should they be free to impose their beliefs on their children? Isn’t there something to be said for society stepping in?”This kind of character assassination always makes me nervous. There are just too many examples of the vilification of a certain group of people leading to their annihilation.I have to be careful here lest I be misunderstood. I’m not saying individuals who are atheist or agnostic can’t be good citizens. Of course they can, just as those motivated by religious beliefs can do bad things. The issue is that those who believe in God and those who are atheist should “both” be free to hold to their beliefs without rancor. As we hear an ever louder voice proclaiming the “evils” of religion along with the increased frequency of judgments made against those who stand up for their convictions, we are in danger of losing many of the freedoms we have come to take for granted. We’re already seeing capitulations on a number of fronts. If we’re not careful, one by one we’ll see the basic freedoms we have so long cherished completely disappear.

4) Aside from giving your readers a rip-roaring good read, what else did you hope to accomplish by writing Angel in the Alley?

It was, and is, my hope to provide Canadians and Americans with a wakeup call. At the conclusion of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge said to the Ghost of Christmas future: "Ghost of the Future...I fear you more than any specter I have seen...Are these the shadows of the things that will be, or are they shadows of things that may be, only?" Ebenezer was given a glimpse into a possible future and was wise enough to discern that the future can be changed by the actions we take in the present.

Similarly, Edmund Burke said: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” I think it’s time for good men to speak up. I applaud people like Ezra Levant and Mark Steyn who are taking the Canadian Human Rights Commission to task, just as I applaud all those who have had to pay fines for standing up for what they believe. If we do less, we may well end up weeping with the anonymous writer of what has become known as the, Holocaust Poem, to wit: “First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

“The New Evangelization and the Mass Media” by Cardinal Marc Ouellet

Plenary Conference

Friday May 30, 2008 9:15 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

Sheraton Centre Hotel

“The New Evangelization and the Mass Media”

Marc Cardinal Ouellet,

Archbishop of Quebec and Primate of Canada

Distinguished Guests,

Dear Friends,

I wish to thank the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada, the Catholic Academy of Communication Arts Professionals, the Association of Roman Catholic Communicators of Canada, and the convention organizers, Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B., and Mr. Joseph Sinasac for their invitation to address this very important assembly of Catholic journalists and communicators from throughout North America. I was delighted to hear that the theme of the 2008 convention is “Proclaim it from the rooftops”. You have asked me to address the convention on a theme that is close to my heart and ministry: “The New Evangelization and the Mass Media.” It is a vast topic that is also at the heart of the mission of the Church in this day and age.

The meaning of Evangelization

The word Evangelization comes from the Greek word for good news. The Good News, the Gospel of Jesus, tells us that God, our Creator, loves us and wants us to lead lives that will enable us to live in eternal joy. God sent Jesus to show us how to come to know, love and serve God. This is the source of our Evangelization. Believing this Good News impels us to share it with others. Evangelization becomes the mission of each Christian and the Christian community as a whole.

The Church always evangelizes and has never interrupted the path of evangelization. She celebrates the Eucharistic mystery every day, administers the sacraments, proclaims the word of life – the Word of God, and commits herself to the causes of justice and charity. And this evangelization bears fruit: It gives light and joy, it gives the path of life to many people; many others live, often unknowingly, of the light and the warmth that radiate from this permanent Evangelization.

At the beginning of his public life Jesus says: I have come to evangelize the poor (Luke 4:18); this means: I have the response to your fundamental question; I will show you the path of life, the path toward happiness – rather: I am that path. Our anointing in the Spirit in Baptism and Confirmation empowers us, like it did the early disciples, to proclaim the Good News to the "poor". By our words and actions we encourage those who are poor in their spiritual, economic or social lives to look to God for peace and health and to become part of the believing community. To evangelize means: to show this path – to teach the art of living to others.

Evangelization is strengthened when it considers seriously the people to whom it is addressed, using their language, signs and symbols and answering the questions they ask, thus actually touching their daily lives. The New Testament shows the Church's deep respect for the context in which the Gospel is preached. Paul's letters pay careful attention to the prevailing atmosphere of each distinctive community. Mark places great emphasis on the mystery of the Cross. Luke, on the other hand, writes for the Gentile community that is amazed and grateful for God's love. Jesus preached by day, by night he prayed. His entire life was – as demonstrated in a beautiful way in Luke’s Gospel – a path toward the cross, a journey up to Jerusalem. Jesus did not redeem the world with beautiful words but with his suffering and his death. His Passion is the inexhaustible source of life for the world; the Passion gives power to his words.

The Gospel also helps us recognize our own need to be evangelized. As the People of God immersed in the world, often tempted by our own false idols, we too need to examine the way we pray, celebrate and proclaim the Gospel. Our mission requires us first of all to create in the Church itself mutual esteem, reverence and harmony and to acknowledge all legitimate diversity. The ties which unite the faithful together are stronger than those which separate them. Let there be unity in what is necessary, freedom in what is doubtful and charity in everything.

The Holy Spirit is the prime agent of Evangelization, inspiring each of us to proclaim the Gospel and causing us to understand and accept the words of salvation in the depth of our being. Without the Holy Spirit, the most convincing arguments or most highly developed plans based on sociology or psychology are quickly seen to be without value.

Why we need a new Evangelization

The Evangelization of today's world – the New Evangelization so often spoken about by the Servant of God John Paul II – is a task in which the Church places great hope; yet the Church is fully aware of the innumerable obstacles she faces in this work due to the extraordinary changes happening at a personal and social level and, above all, to a postmodern culture in serious crisis.

How many times did the Servant of God John Paul II exhort the Church at the beginning of the third millennium about the mission of Evangelization! Listen to his words: "I have often repeated the call for a New Evangelization during these years. I repeat it again in order to emphasize that we must renew that original impulse and allow ourselves to be filled with the zeal of the apostolic preaching after Pentecost. We must awaken in ourselves those sentiments of St. Paul who exclaimed: "Woe to me if I do not proclaim the Gospel!" (I Corinthians 9:16).

The greatest challenge facing the Church at the beginning of the new millennium is the task that has always been entrusted to her: Evangelization. The Church is called in every epoch, and therefore in our own, to embrace anew the missionary mandate of the Risen Christ: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you." (Matthew 28:19-20).

New Evangelization means: to dare, once again and with the humility of the small grain, to leave up to God the when and how it will grow (Mark 4:26-29). The sources are hidden – they are too small. In other words: large realities begin in humility. In the process of the New Evangelization, we are often faced with the great temptation of impatience, the temptation of immediately finding the great success, in finding large numbers. But this is not God´s way. For the Kingdom of God as well as for authentic Evangelization, the instrument and vehicle of the Kingdom of God, the parable of the grain of mustard seed is always valid (see Mark 4:31-32).

The deepest poverty is the inability of joy, the tediousness of a life considered absurd and contradictory. This poverty is widespread today, in very different forms in the materially rich as well as the poor countries. The inability of joy presupposes and produces the inability to love, produces jealousy, avarice – all defects that devastate the life of individuals and of the world. This is precisely why we are in need of a New Evangelization ­– if the art of living remains an unknown, nothing else works. But this art is not the object of a science ­– this art can only be communicated by one who has life – he who is the Gospel personified.

In his words to the German bishops in Cologne in August 2005, Pope Benedict XVI took up the theme of Evangelization once again: "We must reflect seriously on how we might carry out a true Evangelization today, not just a New Evangelization, but often a true first Evangelization. People don't know God, they don't know Christ. A new paganism is present, and it is not enough just to maintain the community of believers, although this is very important. (…) I believe that together we must find new ways of bringing the Gospel to today's world by preaching Christ anew and by establishing the faith."

Doctrinal Note on some Aspects of Evangelization

You are undoubtedly aware that last December, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released a Doctrinal Note on some Aspects of Evangelization [December 14, 2007]. The document, which came as a surprise to many, actually contains some very important points to help us understand the heart of the Church’s mission and method of Evangelization on our time.

The introduction to the document read: “This document is intended to recall to the Catholic faithful some fundamental principles regarding the proclamation of the Gospel in contemporary circumstances, by elucidating certain anthropological, ecclesiological and ecumenical implications of this important question.”

I wish to highlight several critical points of this brief yet dense document:

…”to Evangelize does not mean simply to teach a doctrine, but to proclaim Jesus Christ by one's words and actions, that is, to make oneself an instrument of his presence and action in the world.”

…"Social issues and the Gospel are inseparable. When we bring people only knowledge, ability, technical competence and tools, we bring them too little".

…”There is today, however, a growing confusion which leads many to leave the missionary command of the Lord unheard and ineffective” (cf. Mt 28:19).

”some maintain that Christ should not be proclaimed to those who do not know him, nor should joining the Church be promoted, since it would also be possible to be saved without explicit knowledge of Christ and without formal incorporation in the Church.”

…”Today, however, with ever-increasing frequency, questions are being raised about the legitimacy of presenting to others - so that they might in turn accept it - that which is held to be true for oneself. Often this is seen as an infringement of other people's freedom. Such a vision of human freedom, separated from its integral reference to truth, is one of the expressions "of that relativism which, recognizing nothing as definitive, leaves as the ultimate criterion only the self with its desires and under the semblance of freedom, becomes a prison for each one".

…”In the various forms of agnosticism and relativism present in contemporary thought, "a legitimate plurality of positions has yielded to an undifferentiated pluralism, based upon the assumption that all positions are equally valid, which is one of today's most widespread symptoms of the lack of confidence in truth.”

…”Spiritual individualism, on the other hand, isolates a person, hindering him from opening in trust to others – so as both to receive and to bestow the abundant goods which nourish his freedom - and jeopardizes the right to manifest one's own convictions and opinions in society.”

…”Although non-Christians can be saved through the grace which God bestows in "ways known to him", the Church cannot fail to recognize that such persons are lacking a tremendous benefit in this world: to know the true face of God and the friendship of Jesus Christ, God-with-us.

…”Evangelization also involves a sincere dialogue that seeks to understand the reasons and feelings of others.”

…"the Church severely prohibits forcing people to embrace the faith or leading or enticing them by improper techniques; by the same token, she also strongly defends the right that no one be deterred from the faith by deplorable ill treatment”.

…“The Kingdom of God is not - as some maintain today - a generic reality above all religious experiences and traditions, to which they tend as a universal and indistinct communion of all those who seek God, but it is, before all else, a person with a name and a face: Jesus of Nazareth, the image of the unseen God”.

…“The growth of the Church in history, which results from missionary activity, is at the service of the presence of God through his Kingdom: one cannot in fact "detach the Kingdom from the Church".

…“For a long time, the reason for evangelization has not been clear to many among the Catholic faithful. It is even stated that the claim to have received the gift of the fullness of God's revelation masks an attitude of intolerance and a danger to peace.

…At the present time, with so many people in the world living in different types of desert, above all, in the "desert of God's darkness, the emptiness of souls no longer aware of their dignity or the goal of human life", Pope Benedict XVI has recalled to the world that "the Church as a whole and all her Pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life, towards friendship with the Son of God, towards the One who gives us life, and life in abundance".

…“even witness by itself is not enough "because even the finest witness will prove ineffective in the long run, if it is not explained, justified - what Peter called 'giving a reason for the hope that is in you' (1 Pet 3:15) - and made explicit by a clear and unequivocal proclamation of the Lord Jesus".

The doctrinal note had been in reserve for a number of years, from when Joseph Ratzinger was still prefect of the doctrinal congregation. What made it "necessary" – as the introduction states – was the "growing confusion" over the Church's duty to proclaim Jesus to the world.

Above all, there is the idea that every religion is a way of salvation as valid as all the rest. Then there is the conviction that proposing Christian truth to others is an attack on their freedom. Then there is a conception of the Kingdom of God that is not identified in the person of Jesus Christ, but in "a generic reality that overarches all the religious experiences or traditions, toward which these should incline as toward a universal and indistinct communion of all those who seek God." Then again there is the idea that "the pretense of having received as a gift the fullness of God's Revelation conceals an attitude of intolerance and a threat to peace."

To be concrete, the document tries to deal with:

1) A false sense of social justice, social concerns and political correctness

2) A separation of the Proclamation of the Kingdom from the reality of the Church

3) Challenges flowing from Ecumenism and the Missionary dimension of the Church

On the positive side, the note from the Vatican congregation urges unconditional obedience to the commandment of Jesus: "Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). Reading the document carefully, we cannot help but think of Orthodox Russia. The doctrinal note states – dialogue with non-Catholic Christians must be "not only an exchange of ideas, but of gifts, so that they may be offered the fullness of the means of salvation." Our thought turns immediately to the Muslim countries. In them, both preaching and conversion have always been dangerous, and still are today, at the risk of life itself. But the note states:

"Martyrdom itself gives credibility to the witnesses, who do not seek power or gain, but give their own lives for Christ. They show to the world the power, weaponless and full of love for men, that is given to those who follow Christ to the point of the total donation of their existence. Thus Christians, from the dawn of Christianity until our own time, have undergone persecution on account of the Gospel, as Jesus proclaimed beforehand: If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you (John 15:20)."

Clearly this doctrinal note lays a solid foundation for the Evangelization efforts of the Catholic Church.

Evangelization and Mass Media

In the Post Synodal Exhortation “Ecclesia in America”, Pope John Paul II wrote prophetically [#72]: “For the new evangelization to be effective, it is essential to have a deep understanding of the culture of our time in which the social communications media are most influential. Therefore, knowledge and use of the media, whether the more traditional forms or those which technology has produced in recent times, is indispensable. Contemporary reality demands a capacity to learn the language, nature and characteristics of mass media. Using the media correctly and competently can lead to a genuine inculturation of the Gospel.”

It’s not always easy for a church steeped in centuries of tradition to adapt to a modern communication’s culture. Let us never forget that the church IS communication and therefore the church media work is inextricably linked with its other Evangelization efforts. Communication planning recognizes and understands the nature of the church as communication and genuinely takes its cues from Jesus and New Testament imagery and symbolism as interpreted for our culture and times.

Communications and media are much more than technical facilities. While these are vital, at the heart of communications are people, resources and funds, developed for specific purposes. They call for a missionary engagement with modern culture, for mission is constitutive of the Church. God transcends culture but also meets us in our culture.

The role of the media is an indispensable cultural web of communication. Christianity has always been mediated and its message, and the image and message of the church, is linked to the nature of its mediation. It recognizes the incarnation as an ongoing process of Evangelization and therefore the necessity of finding ways and means of spreading the Word in every age.

In this year’s papal message for the 42nd World Day of Social Communications that we commemorated on Ascension Sunday (May 4), Pope Benedict XVI said the role of social communications "must now be considered an integral part of the 'anthropological' question that is emerging as the key challenge of the third millennium."

The Pope explained: "Just as we see happening in areas such as human life, marriage and the family, and in the great contemporary issues of peace, justice and protection of creation, so too in the sector of social communications there are essential dimensions of the human person and the truth concerning the human person coming into play.

"When communication loses its ethical underpinning and eludes society’s control, it ends up no longer taking into account the centrality and inviolable dignity of the human person. As a result it risks exercising a negative influence on people’s consciences and choices and definitively conditioning their freedom and their very lives.”

The Pope expressed his enthusiasm about the media's potential: "One might even say that seeking and presenting the truth about humanity constitutes the highest vocation of social communication. Utilizing for this purpose the many refined and engaging techniques that the media have at their disposal is an exciting task.

Benedict concluded the message urging prayer to the Holy Spirit, that he may "raise up courageous communicators and authentic witnesses to the truth."

My friends, delegates to this important convention in Toronto, we must pray in the Church not only for more vocations to the priesthood, consecrated life and married life, but also vocations to your noble calling of Catholic journalists, communicators and media agents. You are instruments of hope to the Church and the world. You must influence your brothers and sisters and colleagues who work in the secular media and help them to avoid the risk of being transformed into systems aimed at subjecting humanity to agendas dictated by the dominant interests of the day. This is the challenge facing the media, the challenge we must all face in our daily lives in order to become men and women who show solidarity to all mankind.

I invite each of you currently working, or wishing to work in the important field of Catholic communications and media, to make yourselves familiar with the considerable volume of official Church teaching on social communications, Inter Mirifica, Aetatis Novae, Communio et Progressio, Letter to Artists, Rapid Development, etc., to name just a few. We need to accept this teaching trustfully, and teach it faithfully.

The International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec City

Dear Friends, how could I stand before such a prestigious group of media experts today and not say something about a project that has occupied my mind and pastoral efforts since I became Archbishop of Quebec City in 2003? I speak here about the International Eucharistic Congress that will take place in Quebec City two weeks from now.

The theme for this global Meeting recalls the Gift of God who is Holy Eucharist for the Life of the World. It is a theme chosen in recognition both of the 400th anniversary of the foundation of the City of Quebec, and also of the need to give new life to our consciousness of the Christian roots of our country. In the midst of enviable progress in social needs, Canada is still strongly marked by the secularization of mindset and habit shown by religious indifference which John Paul II called the ‘culture of death’. I stand before you today and sincerely ask you to help us tell the story of the Congress to the entire world. You are, in many ways, the privileged ambassadors of the International Eucharistic Congress.

The Eucharist, Gift of God for the Life of the World

The opening of the Congress on Sunday the 15th of June will focus on the welcoming of delegates and the invocation of the Holy Spirit who reminds the church of all that Jesus did and then left in our care. We will begin the work directly related to the theme on Monday June 16 with the catechesis on the Eucharist, Gift of God. This catechesis will speak of the institution of the Eucharist as liturgical rite, a tangible testament of Jesus, ordained and ordered as a covenantal act to be celebrated as a mark of belonging to the community of disciples, an identifying sign which defines the community and qualifies its faith and its action

The second day, June 17, will concentrate on the content of the rite. The question is no longer ‘what did Jesus do at the last supper?’ but rather ‘what does this rite speak of? What is the content of this memorial?’ This question draws us into that sacrificial dimension of the Eucharist, which needs deepening today. There is a tendency to ignore this aspect in favour of the social dimension, and so condemn this one to superficiality.

On Wednesday June 18, delegates are invited to explore the first result of this gift of God, in the light of the encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia. In giving himself (and in being received in the faith of the Church,) the Eucharistic Christ founds the Church, he makes the Church his own body and even his spouse, he opens up the communion of divine persons for the communion of human persons who believe in Him.

From Thursday June 19 - to Saturday June 21, the focus is on the third part: Eucharist for the life of the world. What life do we speak of? The life of Christ, which penetrates our lives and draws us by faith in his act of love for the Father, of adoration, of praise and thanksgiving. The focus of Thursday is on adoration, as the evening concludes with a public procession with the Blessed Sacrament in the heart of the city. In the context of the present World food crisis, this procession will also be a call for Bread to the poor.

The theme of Friday is the Eucharist and mission. The gift of God draws us into sharing, into compassion, into the search for justice and tangible charity at the heart of the realities of the world. What is the ethical mandate that runs through our Eucharistic celebrations, and how does that affect the social realities, the poverty, ignorance, injustice and war?

Finally, the week concludes with a catechesis on ordinary holiness at the heart of the world, inspired and nourished by the Eucharist. Two specific testimonies will be highlighted – that of spouses who form their family on the basis of sacramental marriage, becoming therefore a domestic Church; and that of consecrated life under all its forms, which witness to the passion of the spousal love the church has for its Eucharistic spouse, and which wants to respond to him with the same love by which it is loved by him.

The 2008 International Eucharistic Congress of Quebec is a great opportunity for Canada to proclaim to the whole world the values which have been the envy of other countries, and to re-actualize the historic and cultural patrimony of holiness and social engagement of the Church which draws its roots from the Eucharistic mystery, Gift of God for the Life of the World.

What can you do as a Catholic journalist, writer, media agent to make know the riches of this year’s International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec City? Allow me to offer you some answers to these questions. The International Eucharistic Congress is a gift and invitation from the Holy Father to the whole world, especially to the Church in North America. We need you very much to assist us. First by your fervent prayers to Almighty God that the Congress will reawaken the faith and ecclesial life of the people of Canada, especially the people of Quebec. For many dioceses throughout North America, there is a direct link to Quebec, which gave birth to the Church on our continent. In praying for the Congress in Quebec City, and coming to Quebec City, you are praying for the Mother Church to so many local churches who are beneficiaries of the faith and witness of the Catholic Church in Quebec.

Second, the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life, as Pope John Paul II, and now Pope Benedict XVI, have repeated so often in their magnificent teachings. We are invited to celebrate this Congress together, for in living deeply the Eucharistic life, we are touching the core of our ecclesial life and existence. And we contribute to foster in the world a culture of life and solidarity, a civilization of love.

Third, let the world know that people still hunger today for the Bread that gives life, hope and true freedom. Proclaim this message and good news from the rooftops! This is the living Bread that is Jesus. The Congress is not only about small details and the management of large crowds: it is a countersign to a culture that lives on fast food and quick fixes. The Congress will speak about the food and the hunger that give meaning to human life. We rely on each and every one of you to help us tell this story not just to the Catholic community but also to the entire world. It is truly a privileged moment of the New Evangelization!


Let me conclude my remarks with the words of the Servant of God, Pope John Paul II, in his message for World Media Day on January 24, 2000. His thoughts express deeply my hopes, desires and wishes for each of you: “To proclaim Christ in the media at the dawn of the new millennium is not only a necessary part of the Church's evangelizing mission; it is also a vital, inspiring and hope-filled enrichment of the media's message.
May God abundantly bless all those who honor and proclaim His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in the vast world of the means of social communication.”

I look forward to welcoming many of you to my diocese in a few weeks. As we say in Quebec, « Au revoir et à bientôt »

Thank you and may God bless you!

Cardinal Ouellet's homily May 29 in Toronto

Homily of Marc Cardinal Ouellet,
Archbishop of Quebec and Primate of Canada

Thursday May 29, 2008 8th Week in Ordinary Time
St. Paul’s Basilica, Toronto
2008 International Catholic Media Convention

Dear Friends,

Thank you for the privilege of presiding at this Eucharistic Celebration in the magnificent Basilica of St. Paul in downtown Toronto. St. Paul's was the first Roman Catholic Church in Toronto, begun in 1822. Initially the congregation was mostly Irish but eventually immigrants from Scotland and French Canada started using the church.

Fr. Michael Power was appointed first bishop of the diocese of Toronto in 1842, prior to which time one bishop presided over the whole of Upper Canada. Power died in 1847 at the age of 42 while attending to the sick members of his flock, many of them recently-arrived famine immigrants from Ireland who had contracted typhoid fever. Bishop Power was truly a saintly man walking these very streets, including the Distillery District that you will visit later this evening. While healing and doing much good in a time of crisis, took on the infirmities of his people and died so young.

The present church at the corner of Queen and Power Streets was built in 1889 and modeled on the Basilica of St. Paul outside the walls in Rome. As you can see, the interior of this church is covered with stunning frescos that are unlike any that you can see in all of Canada. St. Paul’s was declared a minor Basilica in 1999 by Pope John Paul II.

Tomorrow morning I will have the opportunity to address you in your professional roles as the people who bring Catholic news to the world. This evening I would like to speak to you as Christian brothers and sisters in faith, colleagues in the vineyard of the Lord, lovers of Jesus Christ, our cornerstone.

In that marvelous first reading from the First Letter of Peter (I Peter 2:2-5, 9-12), Jesus is depicted as a living stone, and Christians as living stones. The significance of the material building lies in the fact that it speaks to us of that superior reality which is “God’s building” (I Cor 3:9) “made of living stones” (cf. I Pt 2:5). Here the holy liturgy is celebrated, in which the pilgrim Church on earth expresses the spiritual bond which unites her with the Church in heaven through the communion of saints.

On the basis of Baptism, the First Letter of Peter urges Christians to gather round Christ to help build the spiritual edifice founded by and on him: "Come to him [Christ], to that living stone, rejected by men but in God’s sight chosen and precious; and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (2:4-5).

Just a few weeks ago, on April 19, 2008, I had the privilege of concelebrating a magnificent liturgy with Pope Benedict XVI in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan. I cannot help but recall the powerful images evoked by the Holy Father in his homily that Saturday morning- words that were inspired by the great Gothic structure of America’s premier house of prayer- St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Pope Benedict XVI referred first to the stained glass windows of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which flood the interior with mystic light. He said:

“From the outside, those windows are dark, heavy, even dreary. But once one enters the church, they suddenly come alive; reflecting the light passing through them, they reveal all their splendor. …It is only from the inside, from the experience of faith and ecclesial life, that we see the Church as she truly is: flooded with grace, resplendent in beauty, adorned by the manifold gifts of the Spirit. It follows that we, who live the life of grace within the Church’s communion, are called to draw all people into this mystery of light.”

Benedict continued his reflections to the gathered priests and religious: “…You, who have devoted your lives to bearing witness to the love of Christ and the building up of his Body, know from your daily contact with the world around us how tempting it is at times to give way to frustration, disappointment and even pessimism about the future. In a word, it is not always easy to see the light of the Spirit all about us, the splendor of the Risen Lord illuminating our lives and instilling renewed hope in his victory over the world (cf. Jn 16:33).”

Dear friends who work in the important world of Catholic media and communications, these words are so appropriate for you as well, in your mission and vocation. You have no easy task in being excellent journalists and communicators when you work in a world that often looks at the Church “from the outside”, - a world which deeply senses a need for spirituality, yet finds it difficult to “enter into” the mystery of the Church. Even for those of us within, and those who “cover the Church on a daily basis,” the light of faith can be dimmed by routine, and the splendor of the Church obscured by the sins and weaknesses of her members.

This leads me to my second thought that I wish to share with you on this evening’s moving Gospel story from St. Mark- the healing of Bartimaeus the blind man. Healing stories in the Gospels never seem to be simply a reversal of physical misfortune. A paralyzed man stands and walks. A man stretches out a withered hand to Jesus and sees it become useful again. A girl who was pronounced dead awakens.

Particularly suspicious are the stories of those who "once were blind, but now they see." The connections between seeing and believing are so strong in the Gospel accounts that these miracles worked through Jesus almost always seem more about growing in faith than taking off dark glasses. Though Bartimaeus was blind to many things, he clearly saw who Jesus was. But Bartimaeus is not blind; he is only sightless. He sees better with his heart than many of those around him, because he has faith and cherishes hope. More than that, it is this interior vision of faith that also helps him to recover his external vision of things. "Your faith has made you well," Jesus says to him.

Seeing "who Jesus is" is the goal of faith, and it leads to discipleship. At the end of the story we're told that this is exactly what happened. Bartimaeus regained his sight and followed Jesus on the way. Given that the very next verse in Mark narrates the entry into Jerusalem, the way Bartimaeus followed was the way to the cross.

Bartimaeus, like every good communicator and journalist, does not miss an opportunity! He heard that Jesus was passing by, understood that it was the opportunity of his life and acted swiftly. His quick thinking and action brought about a life-changing, prophetic encounter for this poor beggar on the road to Jericho. Blind Bartimaeus calls from the gutter until the Lord hears him. Then he returns to the Lord and is restored. I can easily picture him, the last recruit in this fledgling army of disciples, marching toward Jerusalem with palm branch in hand.

We disciples of Jesus have vision problems. We sometimes describe our blindness as an inability to see the forest for the trees, but that's a benign analysis. More worrisome is the inherited blindness of each generation, which so often assumes it is the best generation of all, with no lessons left to learn, only an inheritance to enjoy. This arrogance is the root of our blindness. We still need the miracle of restored sight each day.

Sisters and brothers, dear friends, you are the "living stones", as the Apostle Peter wrote, living stones of the spiritual edifice which is the Church. The work you do as journalists and communicators in the service of Christ and the truth must flow from your own faith and conviction in the Lord’s saving power throughout history.

Without that firm conviction and deep hope, you simply remain as outsiders and bystanders, peering into the church from the outside world, and living under the myth of objectivity that does not necessarily give life, beauty and hope to the world! Raw objectivity will often lead us to reading without repentance, knowledge without devotion, research without the impulse of wonder, prudence without the ability to surrender to joy, action divorced from religion, learning separated from love, intelligence without humility, thought without the wisdom inspired by God. You cannot simply peer into the reality of the Church as outsiders. Allow yourselves to be enveloped by the beautiful light and enduring grace that is Christ!

Tonight, I urge you with the words of Peter and Mark: “Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God, and, like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

“Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.” And when the Lord asks you what you wish from him, respond to him with joy and conviction: “Master, I want to see.”
Together let us follow Jesus joyfully along the way!