Consecration of Canada to Our Lady

June 11, 2017

                   

Our Canadian Bishops have decided to re-consecrate our country Canada on our 150th birthday to Mary because Mary is “the perfect example, icon, and model of what it means to live by faith (Vatican Council).”  What is a Marian consecration and why consecrate Canada to Our Lady? Q 1. In what way are we already consecrated to God? Through the gift of Baptism, we are reborn, both spiritually and Sacramentally, and become children of God. The other Sacraments of Christian Initiation, Confirmation and the Eucharist, strengthen and nourish our life of faith, leading us into an even deeper relationship with Christ through his grace. Through each of these Sacraments, we experience the joy of living as sons and daughters dedicated to the Lord, sharing in his divine life, joining ourselves to his Passion, Death, and Resurrection, and receiving the free and empowering help that God gives us to respond to his call to become disciples, temples of the Holy Spirit, and members of his Church (Cf. Catechism, 1212-1419). As baptized persons, young and old, we are called to follow Christ through a life of holiness and service, to witness and evangelize, spreading the Kingdom of God in our midst. When we strive to follow Christ, despite our personal and communal weaknesses and failings, we embody more fully our vocation as “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people” (1 Peter 2:9). Informed and motivated thus by our God-given identity, as Christians we look to the teachings of Christ and his Church to shape how we think, decide, and act. It is not easy to respond to life’s challenges and trials in a manner which is coherent and deeply faithful to Christ. With the help of the Holy Spirit, however, we can turn to the Father for divine assistance, not only at the crossroads of our life, but at every moment. The first and foremost way of understanding what consecration means comes from the viewpoint of God himself, for it is he who consecrates us before all else. Through Baptism, God makes us his adoptive children and confers on us his very own holiness of life and love. With God’s sanctifying and healing grace, we are made partakers of his Trinitarian life, enabling us to believe in him, to hope in him, and to love him through the theological virtues; we live and act under the promptings and with the gifts of the Holy Spirit; we grow in goodness through the moral virtues (Catechism, 1266).  A second, complementary way of understanding consecration is from the viewpoint of our human and Christian experience. Living in holiness and truth, we share in God’s life and love. To consecrate ourselves to him personally, then, is to make a faith-filled decision in which our response to God’s love for us is uniquely our own. A personal act of consecration is a means of further appropriating our Christian calling and continuing to abide in God’s grace. It is the renewal of our first consecration at Baptism in the particular form of a personal pledge, made willingly in faith, to live in more profound communion with Our Lord, committing ourselves to him and his Kingdom with greater fervour. It is an entrustment of our entire being to God, including all that we are and do, that we may belong to him more fully and to open ourselves even more to his grace in our lives. Christ Jesus is the best and prime example of what it means to consecrate oneself to God and to his will. Q 2. How is the Virgin Mary a model of Holiness? Mary, the Mother of Jesus, holds an eminent and irrevocable place of honour in our faith tradition because of the unique and undeniable role she played in salvation history as attested in Sacred Scripture. Mary was graced in a most unique and immaculate way at her conception and lived in that holiness all her life. She is the model for our journey of faith because, more than any other person, she was attentive to the Lord’s voice and answered her own vocation with an unconditional “yes” to his Word (Luke 1:38). By God’s wisdom, providence, and free initiative, she became the Mother of God-Incarnate, as well as the first and perfect disciple of her only begotten Son, Jesus. Faithfully following Christ with an undivided heart, she persevered as a woman of faith to the foot of the Cross, where the dying Redeemer conferred upon her another vocation, making her the spiritual Mother of all of Christ’s disciples. We read in St. John’s Gospel of this admirable, mutual entrusting of the Mother of Jesus and the “beloved disciple,” the latter representative of all future disciples of the Lord: “When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.” (John 19:26-27). At Pentecost, where Mary interceded with the Apostles for the gift of the Spirit, the Church was born, Christ’s Mystical Body sent out into the world; and Mary was present as pre-eminent member and loving Mother of the Church. In each of these vocations – Mother of Christ, Mother of all disciples, Mother of the Church Mary’s life was, remains the model of the sequela Christi, a Latin expression  “to follow in Christ’s footsteps.”

Bishop Gary’s Pastoral Letter (Dec. 2016): “Our Majestic Lands: a Gift from God” - Part 1

May 28, 2017

Bishop Gary’s Pastoral Letter (Dec. 2016): "Our Majestic Lands: a Gift from God" - Part 1

"My dear Family,

The twelfth day of December is the memorial of Our Lady of Guadalupe, commemorating the appearance in 1531 of the Virgin Mary to an Indigenous Mexican, Juan Diego, who is the first Indigenous saint. In December 1531, Juan Diego was granted an apparition of Mary on four separate occasions at the Hill of Tepeyac. Mary brought to Juan Diego a message of new life and her maternal protection and care as the Mother of Jesus, giving him and all Indigenous peoples of the Americas a message of hope and loving favour from God. The words she spoke to him, "No estoy yo aqui que soy tu madre?" (Am I not here, I who am your mother?) are inscribed over the main entrance to the Basilica of Guadalupe.

There are 53 distinct First Nations within the Diocese of Victoria, comprising 3 linguistic groups and many sub-groups - and the message of Mary to St. Juan Diego is as relevant in our Diocese in the 21st Century as it was in Mexico 485 years ago. Our history in the Diocese of Victoria is intertwined with Indigenous peoples, and with French, English, Spanish, American trading and colonial expansion. These intertwined relationships sometimes resulted in communion, and sometimes in antagonism, which had profound effects on a fundamental Divine and human teaching: Love God and love your neighbour.

The need for respectful relations has always been great, and perhaps at this time in history is even greater with so many threats to life and our common home. In his Encyclical Laudato Si’, Pope Francis invited us to consider as paramount the needs of people, especially the vulnerable and our common home, rather than the headlong pursuit of power and money.

Because I am not indigenous to these lands, and thus have limited understanding of the complex competing histories of the Indigenous nations and the tensions of cultural contacts pre- and post-European contact, I have worked in collaboration with Qwaqumulwhut and H:umuth (Joan and Jerry Brown) of the Snuneymuxw First Nation to produce this Pastoral Letter. I offer this as an invitation to an essential dialogue that needs to take place in our own historical, cultural and geographical contexts, with our Indigenous brothers and sisters. We are invited to engage in this important conversation and work so that justice, truth and life itself may flourish as the Creator intended - whose Son gave his life to reconcile all creation to the Creator. Thus, I invite you to view the great lands of our Diocese through an ancestral lens, and to listen, not only with ears but also with hearts, to the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ, responding with the tender mercy of our loving God. This Pastoral Letter is intended as a gentle reminder that these lands and its resources touch every aspect of our life. Indigenous people have long realized that the privilege of these great gifts comes with a great responsibility.

In this Pastoral Letter, I offer a prayerful reflection on this critical topic. Specifically, I will begin with a brief introduction of the way of the Ancestors of Vancouver Island. Please note that the cultural practices that I will refer to are known to be universal practices; specific cultural details of the people certainly go beyond the scope of this discussion. Finally, I will consider how a modern world has impacted the people of this area and suggest a few steps forward on the path.

Over the past 40 years, I have been fortunate to spend much time with prominent Elders from numerous Indigenous communities. During these sacred times, the Elders invited me to witness time-honoured rituals and ceremonies. They also shared many personal stories, myths, and legends. Through these cultural experiences, I became aware of the Indigenous peoples’ profound relationship with their lands. It is a connectedness that provides a deep understanding of complex ecosystems, and techniques for using and managing sacred resources. Pope Francis affirms this connectedness:

"We can say that alongside revelation properly so-called, contained in sacred Scripture, there is a divine manifestation in the blaze of the sun and the fall of night. Paying attention to this manifestation, we learn to see ourselves in relation to all other creatures (Laudato Si #85)". "The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it, for He has founded it on the seas and established it on the rivers (Psalm 24:1-2)."

Also, as it has been told to me, these beautiful lands are the birthplace of many distinct languages and cultures. Without a doubt this Ancestral way of being with the land honours all living things, sky dwellers, water beings, forest creatures and all other forms of life, seen and unseen. I have learned that the Ancestors enhanced their relationship through reverence, humility, and reciprocity. It is where the Indigenous Ancestors found their peace and vitality.

It is obvious that this level of familiarity could only be acquired over thousands of years, notably, transferring and sharing this amazing land-based knowledge from one generation to the next. I have come to realize that this way of knowing is a precious gift from God. That is, a way of being with the land as God intended. Pope Francis offers further insight: "In this sense, it is essential to show special care for indigenous communities and their cultural traditions. They are not merely one minority among others, but should be the principal dialogue partners, especially when large projects affecting their land are proposed. For them, land is not a commodity but rather a gift from God and from their ancestors who rest there, a sacred space with which they need to interact if they are to maintain their identity and values (Laudato Si # 145)". To be continued

the Spirit moves us forward

May 14, 2017

Pastor’s Corner - the Spirit moves us forward

Anyone who would have dropped in on Sunday April 30 at our 10:30 Celebration would have sensed that something important, special and wonderful was happening, that the Spirit was surely amoving!! Yes, I think the Holy Spirit was truly present in our midst as Bishop Gary and we welcomed as full members of our faith community 11 young people. Their glowing faces and their obvious joyous involvement showed that they had freely decided to make a commitment. Receiving the Sacraments of confirmation and Eucharist brought them together with the first Christians two thousand years ago who in the same way became followers of Jesus the anointed one, the Christ who is our Light and our Hope. Celebrating those Sacraments brought them together with their forefathers & foremothers in the faith who passed on the joy and strength of the Gospel from one generation to the next. It brought us all together as we continue the journey and reminded us of the special relationship we have with the One who gathers us together and leads us on, always moving forward towards fulfillment.

When we read the Bible we sense change and renewed hope whenever people are on the move, on the road leaving one place or going somewhere to another. But usually the travelers only slowly become aware of their journey, of the real possibilities inherent in the journey. This was true of Abraham and Sarah’s journey which brought them as migrants from their homeland to a new and unknown land and ultimately the promise of a covenant with a faithful and loving God always journeying with them on the road no matter what the future was to bring. It was true for Jacob’s family as they journeyed to Egypt to find food and work and found Joseph their brother. It was true of Moses and the Israelites as they journeyed through the desert and the promise of a land of milk and honey and the deepening relationship between them and the One True God who was always with them on the road. It is only with time and reflection that these journeys took on greater importance and significance and strengthened their hope and their determination to trust in the future.

Well, the same is true of the journey of Cleopas and another disciple (maybe his wife?, mentioned in John 19:25) who left Jerusalem where their hopes for Jesus and themselves died on the cross. We are told by Luke 24:13 that they were going to a village called Emmaus; maybe they were planning to go back to their former lives trying to forget the dreams they once had with Jesus and the other disciples. In other words their journey was not bringing them forward but was going nowhere, to a dead end! It is a stranger who joins them, listens to them, to their pains and dashed hopes, and who in the end brings them to a greater understanding, to a deepening of their faith and who inspires them to move forward by going back to Jerusalem to become enthusiastic messengers of the Good News: "The Lord has risen indeed…Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread (Luke 24:35)."

Our Christian God is a God who is always creating anew, reaching out to us, who calls us forward. God did that in Jesus. Jesus calls his disciples to leave everything and to move forward. Jesus led the way to Jerusalem. After his death and resurrection and inspired and strengthened with the gift of the Spirit the disciples become travelers again; they follow Jesus on the Way and they go out to the ends of the world to bring the joy of the Good News to all people. Ever since we continue on the journey called forward, always forward.

Sometimes we may be like the disciples on the road to Emmaus preoccupied with our past, with our dashed hopes, with our pains. Maybe we do not know where we are going, what to do next; we are stuck. Like the disciples in the Gospel we gather but we may be closed in on our selves, afraid to open the doors of our mind and hearts. That is when we need the risen Lord present in the stranger, present in the events of our life, present in the painful and joyful challenges of our time, to shake us out of our lethargy and fear and to break open and interpret the Scriptures for us. Like the disciples of Emmaus we are called to share with others the God we have discovered little by little as we journeyed through life together on the road. Like the people of old our own journeys have taken on greater significance and importance and have brought us with reflection and prayer and grace to move forward to greater hope and strength. And again like the disciples of Emmaus we are called to let our encounter with the risen Lord embolden us to become signs of hope to others: "Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us (Luke 24:32)?"

The disciples of Emmaus were brought to a new beginning. They cannot but move forward to tell others of the joy of their meeting with the risen Lord. We too cannot leave our Sunday gathering where we have broken open the scriptures and been fed by Christ in his Word and Sacrament without becoming messengers of the joy of the Gospel, without meeting and experiencing the risen Lord in the stranger we meet as we journey in life and becoming for them signs of hope and peace. May Easter continue to bring you joy as we move towards Pentecost!

Shalom