Friday, February 25, 2011

A Life-Saving Medicine...

If you are a member of the Facebook social network, there's a good chance you have a number of 'Friends'.  Some people actually claim to have dozens or even hundreds of such 'Friends'.  

Have you ever wondered what makes a friend more than just an acquaintance?   Have you ever thought about the true meaning of friendship?  The scripture readings for today's Mass included a powerful meditation on friendship from the ancient wisdom book of Sirach.   If you have a minute, read on.... It's definitely worth it!

"My child, pleasant speech multiplies friends, and a gracious tongue multiplies courtesies.  Let those who are friendly with you be many, but let your advisors be one in a thousand.  When you gain friends, gain them through testing, and do not trust them hastily.

For there are friends who are such when it suits them, but they will not stand by you in time of trouble.  And there are friends who change into enemies, and tell of the quarrel to your disgrace.  And there are friends who sit at your table, but they will not stand by you in time of trouble.  When you are prosperous, they become your second self, and lord it over your servants; but if you are brought low, they turn against you, and hide themselves from you.  Keep away from your enemies, and be on guard with your friends.

Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter: whoever finds one has found a treasure.  Faithful friends are beyond price; no amount can balance their worth.  Faithful friends are a life-saving medicine; and those who fear the Lord will find them.  Those who fear the Lord direct their friendship aright, for as they are, so are their neighbours also(Sirach 6:5-17). 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Keys of the Kingdom...

Throughout the ages, the Church has harnessed the creative power of art in its many forms to communicate the beauty and truth of the Gospel.  Believers and even non-believers are moved through true art to contemplate the mystery of salvation as it is presented in "the splendour of colour and in the perfection of beauty" (from the introduction to the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church). 

In a culture which is becoming  less word-based and increasingly image-based, the old saying, 'a picture is worth a thousand words', carries new significance.  Sacred images (along with sacred music) in our churches and in our homes, often communicate truths of faith in ways in which words are not able to.  They continue to be dynamic and effective ways of teaching the faith and spreading the Gospel.

In light of this reflection and of yesterday's feast of the Chair of St. Peter, here are a couple of pictures of a chasuble (the outer garment worn by the priest during Mass), bearing the image of our parish patron, St. Peter.

(the chasuble pictured in front of the high altar)

(detail of St. Peter on the back of the chasuble)

(image on the front)

"And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."
(Jesus' words to St. Peter in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 16)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"You are where you sit..."

Held aloft in the background, under the Holy Spirit window,
is the "Chair of Peter"
(photo courtesy of Br. Lew, O.P.)

A meditation on the meaning of today's Feast of the Chair of St Peter from Francis Fernandez's "In Conversation With God" (vol. 6)....

"The Lord said to Simon Peter: I have prayed that your faith may not fail; and you in turn must strengthen your brothers" (Luke 22:32).  The Chair of St. Peter refers to his seat of authority.  The Fathers of the Church used this term as a symbol of a bishop's authority, paying special regard to the Bishop of Rome.  In the Third Century, Saint Cyprian wrote: "Peter holds primacy so as to show that Christ's Church is one, that his Chair is one."  He goes on to emphasize the matter of unity with these words: "God is one.  The Lord is one.  The Church is one.  The Chair founded by Christ is one" (Epistle 43,5). 

For many years the people of Rome had on display a wooden chair which Saint Peter reputedly sat upon.  Saint Damasus moved this relic to the baptistry of the newly built Vatican in the fourth century.  The chair was seen and honoured by thousands of pilgrims from all over Christendom.  At the time when the present Basilica of St. Peter was erected, it was thought advisable to preserve the chair in bronze and gold.

Before the fourth century, in the earliest liturgical calendars of the Church one finds this feast, 'Natale Petri de Cathedra,' the celebration of the institution of the papacy.  This feast highlights the fact that the Bishop of Rome has jurisdiction throughout the entire world.  It has been a long-standing custom to commemorate the consecrations of bishops in their respective dioceses.  Yet these commemorations pertained solely to the limits of each diocese.  The Chair of Peter, however, is unique in that it extends to all Christianity and has done from the first centuries.  As Saint Augustine has pointed out on a sermon for this feast: "Our forefathers gave the name 'Chair' to this feast so that we might remember that the Prince of the Apostles was entrusted with the 'Chair' of the episcopate" (Sermon 15 on the Saints).  We should be sure to review the quality of our love and obedience to the Pope.

Friday, February 18, 2011

A refreshing story of moral courage from Quebec...

When Alain Simoneau of Saguenay, Quebec, complained to the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal that a non-denominational prayer at a city council meeting violated his 'freedom of conscience', the Tribunal agreed and awarded him $30,000 in damages.  The Tribunal further ordered the mayor of Saguenay, Gerald Tremblay, to cease praying at meetings and to remove the chamber's crucifix and statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  Tremblay failed to be intimidated by the Tribunal's sweepingly intolerant demands.  Now he is pushing back, and urging citizens across the province and the country to push back with him.  "I am the first mayor in the history of the world to be punished for reciting a prayer," he said.  Click here to read more on this story.

Becoming Pro-Life Ambassadors...

In only a few weeks, our parish will be hosting the Annual General Meeting of the Thunder Bay and Area Right to Life Association.  As part of the Northern Ontario Truth Tour, the internationally-renowned speaker, Jojo Ruba, will be offering a presentation entitled "Making Abortion Unthinkable: Becoming Pro-Life Ambassadors."  All are welcome to attend.  Date: Saturday, March 19.  Time: 1-4 p.m. Place: St. Peter's Church Hall. 

The Unsavoury Bits...

Imagine a friend gave you a container of homemade soup along with a note which read: "Overall, soup should be good.  Beware of chunks of bone and other unsavoury bits!" 

No doubt, as you look down at the soup and again at the message, you might think to yourself: "What a great analogy for life!  Overall...pretty good, but some unsavoury bits here and there!"

With this in mind, here's a well-known and well-loved prayer for inner peace and serenity:

"God, grant me the
Serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can; and
Wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time
Enjoying one moment at a time
Accepting the hardships as the pathway to peace
Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His will
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him forever in the next.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Up and coming...

"In My Father's House"    Friday, March 4, at 7 p.m..
Daylin James is returning to St. Peter's for an all new inspirational concert!
Tickets are available through the Rectory Office or the Commissary for $20 or at the door for $22. 
For more information, please call Pauline at 766-9998. 

For your inspiration...

To find out more about and the resources they offer, click here

"...I have calmed and quieted my soul..." (Psalm 131)

Tucked away in the forest not too far from the U.S. border is a small Marian shrine.  Perched on the edge of a mountain range, this refuge of peace and prayer offers a great view of Lake Superior. 

The path to the shrine. 
The Stations of the Cross are posted along the way.

The Fifteenth Station (The Resurrection)

Approaching the shrine...

The Statue of the Madonna and Child

A 'close-up' of the statue, decked out in flowers and votive offerings.

A view of Lake Superior

Got the Winter Blues?

Is the cool weather taking a toll? 
Spring is not far off!    Here's a hopeful sign...

A parishioner brought this flower to church this morning. 
She wanted to bring the whole plant, but it wouldn't have made it alive!
It's a small sign of hope....

"...let your minds be filled with everything that is true,
everything that is honourable, everything that is upright and pure,
everything that we love and admire -
with whatever is good and praiseworthy." (Philippians 4:8)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Some thoughts on the 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time...

One day, a priest, who was known for his long sermons, noticed a man get up in the middle of his homily and leave the church.  Just before the end of the homily, the man returned.  After Mass, the priest asked the man why he had left. 
“I went to get a haircut,” said the man. 
“Well why didn’t you do that before I started Mass?” the priest asked. 
“Because,” the man said, “I didn’t need one then!”

Sometimes we can go overboard in life, even with good things!

This past week I went to bless a parishioner’s home.  As per usual I brought along the holy water, the chalk and the incense.  After the blessing, I noticed that the charcoal was still nice and hot.  So just for good measure, I added some more incense. 

As I walked through the door to leave, sure enough, the smoke alarm went off!  And, as my luck would have it, the alarm was linked to the security system which then sent the alert to the fire station.  So if you happen to live on McTavish Street, and noticed a fire truck there this week, now you know why: Father was just blessing homes!

Even when it comes to our faith, moderation is always a virtue.  As someone once said, “God want spiritual fruits, not religious nuts.” 

Then there is always the other extreme of just squeaking by when it comes to our faith life.  In his book, Rediscovering Catholicism, Matthew Kelly describes this as a philosophy of minimalism.  The minimalist will always ask, “What is the least I can do...?”  Kelly calls minimalism the “enemy of excellence and father of mediocrity.” 

In today’s Gospel (Matthew 5:17-37), Jesus confronts this spirit of minimalism in a provocative manner.

You have heard it said... ‘You shall not murder’...But I say to you that the one who is angry with their brother or sister will be liable to judgement.”

According to the law (the bare minimum that is required),  “‘You shall not commit adultery’....But I say...that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

“ ‘You shall not swear falsely’....But I say to you: Do not swear at all.”

Notice what Our Lord is doing here:  He is issuing a challenge. Those who followed the law were good people.  The Pharisees and scribes were called righteous because they followed the law. 

However, Jesus says, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” In other words, following the moral law is the bare minimum. Follow the law and you will be good. However, being a Christian is not about being good, but about always striving to be better!  It is about committing ourselves to growing in holiness and virtue through the grace of God.

What does this mean for us as individuals?  It means that basic pillars of Catholic life, like the Ten Commandments, and the Precepts of the Church are only starting points for us. They help form the foundation on which our spiritual life is built.  We are called to go beyond the minimums of Christian life.

What does this mean for our parish?  It means that we are a people with a mission. Even our church building, with all the heroic sacrifice and devotion that went into building it, exists for this reason, so that we might carry out our mission “to evangelize... to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile sinners with God, and to perpetuate Christ’s sacrifice in the Mass” (On Evangelization in the Modern World, 14).  Our minimum responsibility is to maintain this building structurally.  Yet, once again, we are called to do so much more.

A chicken and a pig were discussing the problem of world hunger, trying to figure out a practical solution.  Finally, the chicken came up with an idea. 
“Pig,” he said, “I have figured out a way to help solve the problem of hunger in the world.  You and I will make sure that everyone has bacon and eggs to eat.  How’s that for a contribution?” 
The pig said to the chicken, “For you, that’s a contribution; for me, it means giving my all!” 
          Being Christian is about striving higher with the help of God’s grace, embracing the call to heroic virtue, and seeking the Lord with all our hearts (Psalm 119).

Faith in Review...The Precepts of the Church

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2041-2043:

The Precepts of the Church are set in the context of a moral life bound to and nourished by liturgical life.  The obligatory character of these positive laws decreed by the pastoral authorities is meant to guarentee to the faithful the indispensable minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth in love of God and neighbour:

The First Precept:  "You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation and rest from servile labour."

The Second Precept: "You shall confess your sins at least once a year."

The Third Precept: "You shall humbly receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season."

The Fourth Precept: "You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church."

The Fifth Precept: "You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church...according to [your] own ability."

Faith in Review...The Ten Commandments

1. I am the Lord your God:  you shall not have strange gods before me.
2. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
3. Remember to keep holy the Lord's Day.
4. Honour your father and your mother.
5. You shall not kill.
6. You shall not commit adultery.
7. You shall not steal.
8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.
9. You shall not covet your neighbour's wife.
10. You shall not covet your neighbour's goods.

See Exodus 20:2-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21

Friday, February 11, 2011

Parish Family Fun Fest!!!

Join in the fun!  Beginning at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, February 20, the Family Fun Fest will kick off with sledding on the snow hills and boot hockey in the parking lot.  Bring your sled and/or hockey stick.  A Chili supper will begin at 5 p.m.  There's a slight cost for the supper of $5 for adults.  Children are free.  Donations of salads and baking are welcome! 

Praying for the Sick...

In 1858 the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to St. Bernadette Soubirous near Lourdes in France.  Every February the 11th we recall how through this humble girl, Mary called sinners to conversion and inspired within the Church a great zeal for prayer and charity, especially service to the poor and the sick.  Lourdes continues to be one of the most visited Marian shrines in the world, a place of prayer, peace and healing. 
Pope John Paul II officially designated February 11 as the World Day of Prayer for the Sick in 1992. 

In our parish, the remainder of the month of February will be dedicated to special prayers on behalf of the sick, especially those who are members of our own parish.  A vigil candle will remain lit in front of the pulpit until the end of the month to represent our prayers and support for them.  A relic of St. Bernadette Soubirous will also remain in front of the vigil lamp both for veneration and as a reminder of the spiritual solidarity we share with the saints.

Scripture Reading for the Sick

"Are any sick among you?  They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord.  The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven" (James 5:14-15).

Monday, February 7, 2011

St. Cyril and St. Methodius: Our Patron Saints, Our Purpose...

Over 1000 years ago, two brothers, motivated by their profound love for God,  dedicated their lives to the cause of spreading the Gospel message.  Born into a prominent Christian family in Thessalonica (modern-day Greece) in the 9th century, Saints Cyril and Methodius were both gifted leaders and teachers.  Because of their talents and their mastery of the language, they were sent as missionaries first to what is now Ukraine and then to other areas inhabited by the Slavic peoples. 

There they preached the Gospel, baptized many people and established churches.  St. Cyril is perhaps most famous for developing an alphabet which formed the foundation of what is now known as the Cyrillic alphabet.  After St. Cyril died in Rome in 869, his brother, St. Methodius, was consecrated a bishop and served in Moravia until his death in 885. 

Most famously known as the "Apostles to the Slavs", these two brothers were named as patrons of Europe by Pope John Paul II in 1980 for their great contributions to the work of evangelization.

Inspired by the heroic witness, initiative, and creativity of St. Cyril and St. Methodius, we choose them as patron saints of this blog.  We pray that through their intercession, this blog may be an effective tool for strengthening and fostering the Christian faith in our own day.

(Stained Glass Window,
St. Peter's Church, Thunder Bay)

Recently, Pope Benedict XVI, in a message for the 45th World Communications Day, once again encouraged Christians to proclaim the Gospel using the new and ever-devoloping tools and networks of the digital age.  Our parish blog is a humble attempt to respond to his invitation.
Here, in part, are some of his words:

"I would like then to invite Christians, confidently and with an informed and responsible creativity, to join the network of relationships which the digital era has made possible. This is not simply to satisfy the desire to be present, but because this network is an integral part of human life. The web is contributing to the development of new and more complex intellectual and spiritual horizons, new forms of shared awareness. In this field too we are called to proclaim our faith that Christ is God, the Saviour of humanity and of history, the one in whom all things find their fulfilment (cf. Eph 1:10)."

In the beginning...

"In the beginning was the Word:
     the Word was with God
          and the Word was God.

He was with God in the beginning.
     Through him all things came to be,
          not one thing had its being but through him.

All that came to be had life in him
     and that life was the light of men,
          a light that shines in the dark,
               a light that darkness could not overpower."

- John 1:1-5