Our Stained Glass Window at St. Elizabeth’s

July 16, 2017

Pastor’s Corner: Our Stained Glass Window at St. Elizabeth’s 

In early 2015 our pastor Fr. Rolf asked some parishioners (Lucy and Gary Clark, Barb Lovick, Susan McConnell, Maryanne Tomashewski) to advise him and the parish on a new art work, a stained glass window with the general theme of “Life’s journey towards God, fulfillment, peace and happiness.” After interviewing several artists and their proposals, Mercer and Schaefer Glasstudios was recommended and then selected by Parish Council together with financial approval from the Finance Committee. Several months of work followed, including displays, surveys, feedback from individuals, as well as two lively and fruitful parish community meetings with the artist Tom Mercer.  A few changes agreed to by the artist resulted in a generally accepted proposal.  The stained glass window is composed of several panels attached to the inside of the already existing outside window. Traditional leaded glass, hand-blown and imported from Germany was used because it is much richer in color and light diffusion.  Given that several art pieces within the church were of a figurative nature a more contemporary and abstract approach by the artist Tom Mercer was favoured because the entire window invites the viewer to contemplate the mystery of life, of where we come from and to where we go and what is our relationship with the divine. The window invites the viewer both in the present as well as in the future, whether a person of faith or not, to become involved and to include their own personal reflections and interpretation which may change with time and circumstance. Already the rendering of the last supper in the wood sculpture of the altar invites those who are in the church to place themselves at whatever moment in their lives in the blank faces of those around the table with Christ.   The same is true with the stained glass window which depicts DNA, the fundamental makeup of each human being and of all elements in creation. The path drawn by the DNA reminds us how we are born from the mystery and how into the mystery we return and of how God is integral to it all. It reflects our own journey in life but also of humanity’s journey, reminding us of the importance of each individual and also of how connected we are with each other and with all of creation both on earth and throughout the universe. Tom Mercer decided on the use of DNA on June 23, 2015; you will notice a sundial on the bottom left side of the window. This sundial and the phases of the moon remind us again of our short time on earth and of what we can be and live and do while here. The artist made imprints of his granddaughter’s feet on the right bottom side of the window. These baby’s feet at the beginning of life’s journey are followed by ours as we continue the journey and as we grow and mature on an individual as well as on a communal level. Notice on the top left corner the feet with a dot beside them, feet of those who need a stick to enable to continue the journey but also feet of those who possess knowledge and wisdom! The image of the earth reminds us of the wonderful and peaceful island we live on as well as reminding us of the solidarity we are called to with the rest of the world.  Colors in Christian symbolism have special meanings. The color purple in the DNA symbolizes the divine; the imprint of the divine which reflects how God created the human and all of creation in God’s image (Genesis 1:27); and how that imprint is there throughout the journey (“Do not be afraid; I am with you always” Isaiah 43). Sometimes DNA goes off the path left or right; however some DNA also returns to continue the journey. Blue is the color of the heavens and of God’s love which encircles and permeates all of creation, the human, the earth, the galaxies, the whole universe. The color gold symbolizes the gift of life and the human and spiritual gifts given to us to be developed and nurtured, so that they might grow and be used and shared for the good of all. The color red is both symbolic of the passion needed on the journey as well as symbolic of the dark side of the human and of humanity from which we need to be freed.  Even though the steel beams of the window are in the form of a cross the community and the artist wished the cross to be an integral part of the window, symbolizing how the cross is very much part of our own individual life’s journey and of humanity’s journey both as a source of suffering but also as an instrument of redemption.  You are invited to enter the sanctuary and to view the window close by as well as to view the entire window from afar. Experience the light, the color, the changing reflections, the presence which the window creates. And then come back again another time and have a different peaceful experience!          Shalom,

Ron Rolheiser in the Prairie Messenger of June 14, 2017

July 2, 2017

Those who are ‘pro-life’ must be consistent in all areas of morality  “John of the Cross teaches that within spirituality and morality there are no exempt areas. Simply put, you cannot be a saint or a highly moral person if you allow yourself a moral exemption or two. Thus, I may not allow myself to split off one moral flaw or sinful habit and see it as unimportant in the light of my positive qualities and the overall good I do. For John of the Cross, you cannot be a saint and have a moral blind spot, even if it’s a minor one. A bird tethered to a rock, he says, cannot fly irrespective of whether the cord holding it is a cable or a string. The same is true for our efforts to protect life and foster justice in our world. The protection of life and the promotion of justice are all of one piece. We cannot be an authentic prophet and have a few moral blind spots.  A huge consequence flows from this, namely, we cannot treat issues like abortion, nuclear war, lack of ecological sensitivity, the plight of refugees, racism, sexism, poverty and inequality, poor access to health care, unequal access to education, sexual irresponsibility, and discrimination against the LGBT community in isolation from each other, as if these were wholly discrete issues. Whether we admit it or not, these areas are all inextricably interconnected. To quote Cardinal Joseph Bernardin: “The success of any one of the issues concerning life requires a concern for the broader attitude in society about the respect for human life.” That’s a strong challenge for all of us, on all sides of the ideological spectrum.  Those of us who are concerned about abortion need to accept that the problem of abortion cannot be effectively addressed without at the same time addressing issues of poverty, access to health care, sexual morality, and even capital punishment. The interconnection here is not wholly mystical. It’s real. Abortion is driven more by poverty and lack of adequate support than by any liberal ideology. Hence, the struggle against abortion must also focus on the issues of poverty and support for pregnant women. As well, to morally accept killing in one area (capital punishment) helps sanction its acceptance in another area (abortion). Sexual morality must also be addressed since abortion is the inevitable byproduct of a society within which two people who are not married to each other have sex with each other.  It’s all one piece, and any opposition to abortion that fails to adequately recognize the wider perspective that more fully defines “pro-life” leaves many sincere people unable to support anti-abortion groups.  Conversely, those of us who are concerned with the issues of poverty, health care, capital punishment, ecology, war, racism, sexism, and LGBT rights, need to accept that these issues cannot be effectively addressed without also addressing the issue of abortion. Again, the interconnection isn’t just mystical, it’s empirical: Failure to be sensitive to who is weak and vulnerable in one area deeply compromises one’s moral standing on other issues that deal with the weak and the vulnerable. We must advocate for and strive to protect everyone who falls victim within our present way of living, and that includes the unborn.  It’s all of one piece! There can be no exempt areas, thus opposition to the protection of the unborn is not just antithetical to what’s central within a social justice agenda, but it, perhaps more than anything else, leaves liberal ideology and its political allies compromised in a way that allows many sincere people to withhold their support.  Clearly, of course, nobody is asked to give equal energy to every justice issue in the world. Accepting that none of these issues can be effectively dealt with in isolation shouldn’t stop us from passionately working on one issue or another. But knowing that these issues are all of one piece does demand that we always recognize that, however important our particular issue, we may not see it in simple black and white, without nuance, as an issue that can be dealt with within one ideological, political, or religious silo. We must be sensitive to the whole, to the intricate interconnections among all social issues.  And, not least, we must be humble before and sensitive to our own moral inconsistencies.  We will, this side of eternity, always have them and we must forgive ourselves for them and not let perfection, that fact we can’t be fully consistent, be the enemy of the good, that fact that we can do some good work that is effective. But acknowledging both our own inconsistencies and the complexities of the issues should make us more open to listening to the views of others and make us less doctrinaire and fundamentalist in our own attitudes.  All the issues that deal with justice and peace are of one piece, one whole, one moral corpus, one seamless garment; and, like the soldiers casting dice for Jesus’ clothing, we should hesitate to tear this garment into different pieces.” 

Consecration of Canada to Our Lady (part 2)

June 25, 2017

In the previous bulletin I wrote about the Canadian Bishops’ decision to re-consecrate our country Canada to Mary, the Mother of God on the occasion of our 150th birthday on July 1, 2017. Canada had already been consecrated to Mary on the occasion of the Marian Year in Quebec City in 1954.  Throughout the year our Roman Catholic liturgy contains some 17 different public feast days honoring Mary, all in order to remind us of her example of faith and of our vows made at baptism which we are asked to make real by living our faith in our daily life. In addition there are the “Marian” months of May and October. And, of course, there is the devotion of reciting the Rosary with it’s “Hail Marys” and it’s reflection on the mysteries of God’s love and of our Salvation. Here is the second part of that reflection on how Mary is a model to us all of what it means to live by faith.
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 Saint John’s Gospel of this admirable, mutual entrusting of the Mother of Jesus and the “beloved disciple,” the latter indeed 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 he said 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 and remains the model of the sequela Christi, a Latin expression meaning “to follow in Christ’s footsteps.”  Today, the Blessed Mother continues to shine forth in the community of believers as the perfect example, icon, and model of what it means to live by faith, to welcome grace, and to cooperate with the Lord in the fulfilment of his plan of salvation. In their joint statement to mark the Marian Year of 1954, the Bishops of Canada likewise underscored the contemporary significance of Mary as a paradigm of Christian living: Mary is, for all generations, the perfect example of redeemed humanity which has recovered its original integrity; and moreover, for our own generation which seeks to do away with God, she is the model of the creature which abandons itself entirely and unconditionally to the will of its Creator…. Thus, dear Brethren, far from diminishing the majesty of God, true devotion to Mary “exalts the humility of a handmaid” (Luke 1:48), and proposes the ideal of a humanity freely and totally submitted to divine action. That is why our generation which is witnessing the rebellion of man against God turns now to the Blessed Virgin with such an ardent yearning (Canadian Catholic Conference, Statement of the Canadian Hierarchy, 12-14 October 1954). Indeed, Mother of the Church and our Mother in the order of grace, Mary continues to intercede on our behalf, presenting our petitions, prayers and needs to her Son, and encouraging us in our faith journey by her example and maternal mediation. Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, National Liturgy Office, “Mary, Mother of our Lord,” 2006: “The Church invites us to base our devotion to Mary on the Scriptures that speak of her and of her relationship to Jesus. Our prayer – with Mary and to Mary – leads us to a deeper sharing in the liturgy, the worship Jesus gives to the Father, the worship we give to God in his name. Our devotion to Mary leads us to love God as she did: as the mother of Jesus, as the first to believe in him, his first disciple. She is inseparably linked to the saving activity of Jesus, her Son.” It is fitting, therefore, that we should lovingly turn to her, “who from the beginning had given herself without reserve to the person and work of her Son, could not but pour out upon the Church, from the very beginning, her maternal self-giving. After her Son’s departure, her motherhood remains in the Church as maternal mediation: interceding for all her children, the Mother cooperates in the saving work of her Son, the Redeemer of the world (Saint John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris Mater, 40).”