Walking With The Father: 2015

November 14, 2015

Saint Gertrude's Purgatory Prayer

Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the holy souls in purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the Universal Church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen.
Our Lord told Saint Gertrude the Great that the following prayer would release 1,000 souls from Purgatory each time it is said. The prayer was extended to include living sinners to alleviate indebtedness accrued during their lives. -- http://holyspiritmims.com/news/purgatory-prayer

November 7, 2015

Bringing the Word of God to Children

By Father Matthew Keshwah

The Word of God has tremendous power to change lives, to inspire young people, and to open hearts to receive God’s love. Spending time with Sacred Scripture is fundamental to developing that deep personal relationship with God. If we want the next generation of believers to be active in their faith, they must first encounter the Lord in their own lives through the Sacraments and the Word. The person of Jesus Christ must be someone who they know, he must be someone that they can share their lives with, and he must be someone that they love personally.
To help develop this deep relationship with Jesus Christ, I visit our grade four students each year and give them their own copy of the New Testament. Their eyes light up each time I arrive with the box of books since children love to receive gifts. We take the time to discuss how this book is sacred, holy and to be treated with great care because it is the Word of God; the stories of His Son Jesus. We talk about how the Bible came to be written, how it is the best-selling book of all time, and how if there is only one book they read in their life, it should be this one – God’s book.
The children love to share what they know about Jesus. They eagerly tell “Father” everything they know about Jesus – from the Nativity story of Christmas to the Easter story of Jesus’ death on the cross and rising again on the third day. To stir up their excitement to read more of the New Testament, we take time to share our favourite stories of Jesus’ life. By doing this, children are witnessing to each other (evangelizing peer-to-peer), which is a powerful experience at any age. This sharing stirs interest to read the Word of God in other students who may not know these stories yet but find themselves captivated as their friends describe a story.

Let us pray that many of our young people will fall in love with the Lord by reading his story and experience the invitation to relationship that we are all called to in Christ Jesus. May their hearts be open to receiving God’s love, and may their lives be transformed into one that earnestly desires to be a faithful disciple who loves God and neighbour, making our world a better place one person at a time.

October 31, 2015

Prayer to Your Guardian Angel

Angel of God,
my guardian dear,
To whom God's love
commits me here,
Ever this day,
please be by my side,
To light, to guard,
To rule and to guide.

"From infancy to death human life is surrounded by their (the angels) watchful care and intercession. Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life. Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united to God."
-- Catechism of the Catholic Church; 336

photo credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Guardian_Angel_1900.jpg

October 24, 2015

Hospital Chaplaincy: A Sacred Experience

Hospitals are not known to be places people enjoy going – not even to visit. Usually we go there in a crisis situation for ourselves or for someone we love. Who can forget the pungent smells, or the noises of machines constantly beeping? One summer in my years of formation and study to become a priest, I spent three months in a hospital setting, not as a patient, but as a Hospital Chaplain to provide spiritual care and emotional support to patients and their loved ones. My goal was to get experience dealing with death, dying and suffering so that I would have more than just theory in my head to draw from, when God willing, I am ordained a Catholic priest. Never could I have imagined the wealth of experiences the Good Lord would provide me with that summer.

In those three months, I cried with some people and laughed with others. I prayed with some patients and talked about life with others. As a Chaplain I got to know some patients so well that I felt like I knew them my whole life, while others remained complete strangers to me as I sat in silence next to their unconscious body in the hospital bed. Some patients asked for a blessing, while others cursed my very presence from their anger with God at the suffering they were experiencing. Some people wanted a shoulder to cry on when given the bad news of a terminal illness or the recent death of a loved one; while others sought the ear of the chaplain who would listen to them share their feelings of sorrow, or stories of an energetic life now in the past.

Those three months as a hospital chaplain were sacred days in my life. It was an honour to be invited to the bedside of someone as they took their last breath. My own prayer life was deepened as I prayed with patients’ loved ones as they placed all their trust in God during these most difficult moments. I remember being called upon to baptize a baby boy who was just born but would not live very long. When I poured little drops of water on the tiny boy’s head in the incubator the otherwise motionless little body began moving. All four of his limbs moved as if to be his affirmative response to my words “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” The next day, one of the nurses who were present for that baptism asked me, “how does it feel to know you helped a baby get to Heaven?” I said – “Blessed beyond my wildest dreams.” Hospital Chaplaincy is definitely a sacred experience.

Answering the Call

October 10, 2015

The Catholic Passion - David Scott

I am thankful to my pastor in Toronto from 2005 who gave me this book to read. During this transition in my life, I began only to focus on my career, personal life, and getting established in a new city. After a couple of months, questions about God, existence and life quickly began to surface. David Scott looks at these common questions and helped me to remember what is truly important. Scott reignited my passion for the Catholic faith in this book during a crucial point in my life – maybe you’re going through this crucial point in your life now?

I strongly recommend this book. It is easy to read and understand. It is not dry or too theological, which is what I was worried about; having received it from a priest. I think that anyone who has drifted away from their faith or who would like to reignite the fire of their faith would enjoy this book.

Book Reviews

September 24, 2015

Prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel

Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God,
cast into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

photo credit: http://www.tldm.org/News10/MarineNamedMichael.htm

September 16, 2015

The Call of Matthew the Tax Collector

from Wikimedia Commons
"Jesus saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office, and he said to him: Follow me." Jesus saw Matthew, not merely in the usual sense, but more significantly with his merciful understanding of men."

He saw the tax collector and, because he saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him, he said to him: "Follow me." This following meant imitating the pattern of his life - not just walking after him. Saint John tells us: "Whoever says he abides in Christ ought to walk in the same way in which he walked."

"And he rose and followed him." There is no reason for surprise that the tax collector abandoned earthly wealth as soon as the Lord commanded him. Nor should one be amazed that neglecting his wealth, he joined a band of men whose leader had, on Matthew's assessment, no riches at all. Our Lord summoned Matthew by speaking to him in words. By an invisible, interior impulse flooding his mind with the light of grace, he instructed him to walk in his footsteps. In this way Matthew could understand that Christ, who was summoning him away from earthly possessions, had incorruptible treasures of heaven in his gift.

*The painting depicts the story from the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 9:9): Jesus saw a man named Matthew at his seat in the custom house, and said to him, "Follow me", and Matthew rose and followed him.

Saint Matthew's Feast day is September 21st
He is the patron saint of: bankers, tax collectors, and accountants.

September 10, 2015

From the Year of Faith to a Life of Faith

October 11th 2012 marked the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI declared that the Universal Church would celebrate a Year of Faith continuing until November 24th 2013. Many dioceses and parishes began to engage in various programs to delve deeper into their faith. Bible studies, prayer groups, Holy Hours, Eucharistic Adoration, and suggested spiritual reading lists from the Church’s rich tradition began to flourish. It is important that the momentum gained over that year does not dwindle away, especially in our personal journeys of faith. What we have learned and shared must continue if we are to come to know both who we are and what we believe as Catholic Christians.

Who We Are

Knowing who we are comes from getting to know our heritage through reading the divinely inspired texts of the Bible. Here we learn where we have come from as a people of faith. The stories reveal the growth in our relationship with God, especially as we get to know the person of Jesus Christ. Salvation history is an elaborate love story that enlivens the soul and reconnects us with our creator. While some books and passages may resonate more with us, all books and all stories in the Bible are part of this rich heritage. Continuing to read and meditate on just one chapter of the Bible each day will help us to continue this important journey of getting to know who we are. It is by meditating on the Word of God that we see what we have come from and what we are made for.

What We Believe

Often the questions we hear from family or friends are connected to what we believe as Catholics. It is important to know what we believe so that we may live our faith and be able to share it with others. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is one such resource that can help in our search for answers. The first time we look at this book, it may seem daunting, but reading just 8 paragraphs a day will get you through it in less than a year! Why not read it as a family or with a friend so you can discuss the content with someone? Having a buddy in this will help keep you on track.

The Liturgy also gives insight into our faith. The prayers used throughout the Mass tell us exactly what we believe as Catholics. Listening attentively to the words spoken, especially the Eucharistic Prayer sheds light on our faith. Even spending some time slowly reviewing the Creed on our own are just some ways we can learn more about our faith through our worship.

Share The Gift

Faith is a gift from God. While many of the tips mentioned are practical ways of learning information about our faith, heartfelt belief is a grace we receive. Once we have received this great gift, it is meant to be shared with others, not kept to ourselves. Someone living their faith is like a light shining in the darkness. All can see this light, and are naturally drawn to it. At the end of this Year of Faith be one of the faithful whose light continues to burn brighter and brighter with every day.

Answering the Call

September 1, 2015

A Grief Observed - C.S. Lewis

This is an outstanding book! It is C.S. Lewis' personal journal notes from when his wife died just 3 years after their marriage. In this short book, you will journey with him through his emotions with the passing of his wife. While you read this book, your heart will inevitably begin to reflect on your feelings of grief from lost loved ones who have passed on, or whom you have lost touch with due to distance or changes in your life situation.

Lewis’ tone and style of writing make this a great book for those experiencing grief on a personal or even a professional level. I found it helpful book to revisit as I grieve the lost relationships and regular contact of parishioners as I begin my new parish assignment this month.

Throughout his journal, Lewis questions his beliefs and his faith in God since the tragedy of his wife’s passing. The questions Lewis pose are the same ones that you and I may ask God when faced with the death of a loved one. This short book is worth its weight in gold. Read it for yourself, and then recommend it to someone you know who has recently lost a loved one. Who knows? You may just change their life.

Book Reviews

July 30, 2015

The Serenity Prayer

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

July 23, 2015

Ordination to the Diaconate

On Saturday June 23rd 2012 Archbishop Terrence Prendergast ordained me to the diaconate! With many friends and family present, the Good Lord continued to call me closer to the priesthood in this big step where I officially became a member of the Roman Catholic Clergy of Ottawa.

During this celebration, I made three promises before God and the Christian community gathered at my internship parish: to live a celibate life, to pray each day for the People of God, and to be obedient to Archbishop Prendergast and to his successors for the rest of my life.

The whole experience was very moving. I was particularly marked by the gesture of placing my hands in the bishop’s hands and as I promised obedience to him and his successors. This gesture of trust and total self-gift of my life to serve God’s people was very special for me. I really believe that we were all made to give ourselves completely to others. Usually this means to a spouse and children in a family, but in my case, to a large family in the Church that I have given my life to.

In addition, when I was lying face down on the ground during the singing of the Litany of the Saints I was reminded of how powerless I am to carry out this mission entrusted to me. My human gifts and abilities are insufficient to serve so great a family. During the singing of the Litany I was reminded that the people are praying to help me and to ask God to give me the grace to do His will as a priest. I must always remember that I have the support of all the saints in Heaven; even when faced with adversity or persecution in the world. This was such a powerful moment. It brings to mind Saint Paul’s famous lines:

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamites; for when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Immediately after being vested with the stole and dalmatic (liturgical vestments of a deacon), I knelt in front of the bishop and received the book of the Gospels. His words were some of my favourite words from the ordination rite – it reminds everyone of what it means to be an ordained man of the Church, but also I believe that these words are applicable to all the baptized. How do they apply to your life?
“Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you now are.
Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.”

Answering the Call

July 16, 2015

The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic (Matthew Kelly)

In this book, Kelly shares some research he has done which shows that 7% of Catholics are responsible for 80% of the work in the Church; from volunteering and supporting the parish financially, to being the most active in its life of prayer and worship each week. Kelly identifies four signs that “dynamic Catholics” have in common: prayer, study, generosity and evangelization. In doing so, Kelly challenges the reader to become a “dynamic Catholic,” and to help others to become dynamic Catholics themselves.

Many of us would like to see all of our churches full every Sunday with young and old alike, but this transformation may seem overwhelming at first. Kelly suggests growing our base of dynamic Catholics by just 1% per year – which is much more reasonable to hope for given our limited resources. His argument is that if 7% produce 80% of the fruits already, then if we grow our dynamic Catholic base by 1% annually, they will produce double the current harvest in 7 years’ time.

Book Reviews

June 25, 2015

Hail Holy Queen

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope.
To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve:
to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears.
Turn then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us,
and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God,
that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Catholic Prayers

June 18, 2015

On Vacation With The Lord

Going on a silent retreat is like taking a “vacation with the Lord.” All the distractions and responsibilities of life are removed during this time so that you can clearly listen to the still small voice of God who speaks to the heart. Recently, I went on a 30-day silent retreat following Saint Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises. The experience was the best “vacation” I ever had. This may sound strange when you think of all the exotic places one can travel to and the many activities available to those planning a holiday.

Alas, no piña coladas or strawberry daiquiris were served on warm tropical beaches during this “vacation,” nor were tourist sights visited and photographed. Rather streams of living water poured forth from within quenching all thirst of the heart that seeks its Creator and purpose in life. The month of intense prayer allowed me to glimpse the eternal destination of our souls. The countless hours of meditation on the life of Christ and his plan of salvation allowed me to know more personally this child born in the manger of humble beginnings that would give his life on the cross some 33 years later.

The Ignatian practice of praying with the imagination and entering the scene of scripture events allowed me to travel back in time some 2,000 years ago and experience the world that Jesus knew as he walked among us. The spiritual exercises have the retreatant repeatedly pray with the events and teachings of Jesus for five 1-hour prayer periods each day. Throughout the month it was as if I was listening to Christ’s voice first-hand, or watching him perform the signs and miracles among the crowds as I joined in their awe and bewilderment as he: multiplied the loaves, raised Lazarus from the dead, and calmed the storm with his words.

During these 30 days I spent most of the time alone in a small room with a desk, a bed, and a sitting chair. The nearby chapel and countless acres of peaceful grounds for walking and reflection provided the perfect environment for the encounter with God. While such solitude may seem extreme to some, it provides quality time away from the busy and noisy world which often prevent us from hearing and seeing God’s presence in our daily life. The silence allows you to enter into deep: prayer, reflection, meditation and conversation with the Divine.

The term “Spiritual Exercises” rightly gets its name. I cannot believe how much material we covered in that month. I came out from the retreat totally exhausted from this marathon-like experience. It was not always easy to pray 5 hours a day for 30 days straight. The schedule made for full days when you add daily Mass, journaling time after each prayer period and your time out walking in nature. You have a little human contact each morning as you meet with a Spiritual Director for one hour. He listens to how your last 24 hours of prayer went, and guides your next 24 hours of scriptural meditations depending on your progress.

While the 30-day silent retreat is not for everyone, and requires a large commitment of time, I encourage you to think of planning your own “vacation with the Lord” one week this year, or even just for the weekend. It may end up being your favourite holiday. Besides, you will love the company.

Answering the Call

June 11, 2015

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

I wish it were part of the school curriculum of mandatory books you read in high school because Lewis addresses many common questions people have when wrestling with belief in God and the core teachings of Christianity.

If you have not yet read this book, put down what you’re reading and start this one. It will knock your socks off. I have read this book several times, and it continues to provide insight and draw me closer to my faith. Lewis puts aside the areas of debate within Christian denominations and reminds us of the similarities of what we all hold true. His style is logical, and he uses reason to arrive at belief in God – he confesses that he was once an atheist.

This book comes from his radio talks in the 1940s that have been adapted for print. There is no doubt that Lewis is brilliant and has a gift for expressing his thoughts and questions clearly. Lewis puts into words what many of us have felt or thought, yet we have struggled to articulate ourselves. Lewis’ conclusions make sense and are helpful for both someone searching for answers, and the devout person of faith. Treat yourself to an amazing book and read this timeless classic! You’ll thank me for it.

Book Reviews

June 1, 2015

Trinity Sunday (homily)

more homilies

Saint Anthony of Padua

On June 13th the Church celebrates Saint Anthony of Padua. This saint from Lisbon Portugal is one of the 35 Doctors of the Church and probably best known for his help in finding lost articles. Most people I know have a story about when they lost something and then asked for Saint Anthony’s intercession to help them find it with success. Tradition tells us that a young novice at the monastery stole Anthony’s psalter. When Anthony prayed for its return, the thief was moved to return it and did so. I’ve heard some people pray this prayer when they have lost something and seek Anthony’s help: “Saint Anthony of Padua please look around; something is lost and must be found.”

Anthony was the greatest preacher in his day, and was known for his eloquence in speech and boldness in his message. Some called him the “hammer of the heretics” when it came to explaining the faith and correcting error. There are many stories of miracles attributed to him – including one where a sea of fish gathered near him to listen to his preaching when the people refused to. Aside from St. Thérèse of Lisieux, I think Anthony may be the most prayed to Doctor of the Church.

May 18, 2015

The Rosary

How to Pray the Rosary

The Rosary is a Scripture-based prayer. It begins with the Apostles' Creed, which summarizes the great mysteries of the Catholic faith. The Our Father, which introduces each mystery, is from the Gospels. The first part of the Hail Mary is the angel's words announcing Christ's birth and Elizabeth's greeting to Mary. St. Pius V officially added the second part of the Hail Mary. The Mysteries of the Rosary center on the events of Christ's life. There are four sets of Mysteries: Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious and––added by Pope John Paul II in 2002––the Luminous.

The repetition in the Rosary is meant to lead one into restful and contemplative prayer related to each Mystery. The gentle repetition of the words helps us to enter into the silence of our hearts, where Christ's spirit dwells. The Rosary can be said privately or with a group.

The Five Joyful Mysteries are traditionally prayed on the Mondays, Saturdays, and Sundays of Advent:
  1. The Annunciation
  2. The Visitation
  3. The Nativity
  4. The Presentation in the Temple
  5. The Finding in the Temple
The Five Sorrowful Mysteries are traditionally prayed on the Tuesday, Friday, and Sundays of Lent:
  1. The Agony in the Garden
  2. The Scourging at the Pillar
  3. The Crowning with Thorns
  4. The Carrying of the Cross
  5. The Crucifixion and Death
The Five Glorious Mysteries are traditionally prayed on the Wednesday and Sundays outside of Lent and Advent:
  1. The Resurrection
  2. The Ascension
  3. The Descent of the Holy Spirit
  4. The Assumption
  5. The Coronation of Mary
The Five Luminous Mysteries are traditionally prayed on Thursdays:
  1. The Baptism of Christ in the Jordan
  2. The Wedding Feast at Cana
  3. Jesus' Proclamation of the Coming of the Kingdom of God
  4. The Transfiguration
  5. The Institution of the Eucharist

Praying the Rosary

Familiarize yourself and/or your group with the prayers of the rosary.
  1. Make the Sign of the Cross.
  2. Holding the Crucifix, say the Apostles' Creed.
  3. On the first bead, say an Our Father
  4. Say three Hail Marys on each of the next three beads.
  5. Say the Glory Be
  6. For each of the five decades, announce the Mystery, then say the Our Father.
  7. While fingering each of the ten beads of the decade, next say ten Hail Marys while meditating on the Mystery. Then say a Glory Be. (After finishing each decade, some say the following prayer requested by the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima: "O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell,lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who have most need of your mercy.")
  8. After saying the five decades, say the "Hail, Holy Queen, followed by this dialogue and prayer:
V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray: O God, whose Only Begotten Son,by his life, Death, and Resurrection,has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life,grant, we beseech thee,that while meditating on these mysteriesof the most holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary,we may imitate what they containand obtain what they promise,through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

May 7, 2015

Mense Maio - Encyclical of Pope Paul VI

Madonna and Child,
Giovanni Battista Salvi Da Sassoferrato,
Mense Maio - Encyclical of Pope Paul VI
on Prayers During May for Preservation of Peace
April 29, 1965

May 4, 2015

The Papal Mass for Seminarians at World Youth Day Madrid

Saturday August 19th 2011 is a day I will never forget. I was blessed to attend a Mass for seminarians with the Holy Father at the Cathedral in Madrid during World Youth Day. The Mass was scheduled to begin at 10 am. The ticket I received said the doors would be open between 6:30-8:00 am. When I arrived at 6:30 am with a brother seminarian from Toronto, we were surprised to see about 400 other young men already there! What an inspiring sight. In the next hour, thousands of men who are in formation to become priests filled the streets surrounding the Cathedral to celebrate the Eucharist with the Vicar of Christ – Pope Benedict XVI.

As I waited for the Pope to arrive, it was inspiring to see so many young men from around the world praying their breviary, the rosary or praying their Holy Hour. The crowd of seminarians packed both the inside and the outside of the Cathedral. There were so many seminarians present that when the Pope’s motorcade arrived, the cheers were deafening: “Viva el Papa! VIVA!” (Long live the Pope), “Benedicto!” (followed by four fast claps), or “Esta es, la juventud del Papa!” (This is the youth of the Pope!)

The celebration of the Mass was absolutely beautiful and a true encounter with the Risen Christ in the Eucharist. I felt so close to the action with a gigantic screen in front of me. It was as if I were sitting with Jesus and the 12 Apostles at the Last Supper. It was a special moment that I will always treasure and think of when at Mass.

While the Mass was in Spanish, I was able to understand and follow most of the celebration thanks to knowing French and studying some Latin at the seminary. The Pope told us to persevere in our vocation and personal prayer life. His Holiness said that to be close to Christ, we must be close to the Eucharist; which is the source and summit of our faith. He stressed how important the sacrament of confession is in the life of a priest. “A good confessor must first be a regular penitent.” He went on to encourage us to grow in our relationship with Mary our mother. For she is the one who will lead us to, and keep us close to, her son Jesus.

At the end of the Mass the enormous crowd of seminarians spontaneously began singing “Tantum Ergo” and “Salve Regina” as the Pope processed out. The Tantum Ergo is sung every time we receive benediction (the blessing of the people by the Blessed Sacrament) after a time of Eucharistic Adoration. The Salve Regina is sung (or recited) by every priest before going to bed each night. It is the Marian prayer said at the end of the rosary (Hail Holy Queen).

Dear friends of Saint Anne, I wish you could see the zeal and joy in the eyes of these young men. I wish you could hear the enthusiasm in their voices when they sang. They cannot wait to go and preach the Gospel giving their lives to serve the Church. I wish you could see the tremendous love these young men have for Christ and for YOU His Church.

The faith is alive and well among the youth my friends. While this is not what we normally see in all the young people in our local parishes back home, there is definitely something special happening here. The Holy Spirit is moving and raising up a generation of young people that are on fire for the Lord. There is great hope for the future of the Church.

Answering the Call

May 1, 2015

Rediscover Catholicism

Author: Matthew Kelly

Every Catholic should read this book. Strong words I know, but true. Kelly has a gift for making the faith approachable and understandable for people of any age group and at any level in their faith practice. But don’t just take my word for it. Kelly has begun a movement called DynamicCatholic.com to share his material with everyone – for FREE! Yes, there is a movement to make this book in particular free to anyone who decides to read it!

I’ve read this book twice, and have used it in a parish book club that I began where we got together after reading the book to discuss it. The reviews and feedback were incredible. In this book, Kelly helps show us that we need to rediscover our faith for what it is and not what we have been told (or think) it is. He creates the term “best-version-of-yourself” as our path to holiness and virtue. Why not read this book and see how you can become the “best-version-of-yourself” by allowing your faith to come alive.

Book Reviews

April 15, 2015

"Try Before You Buy" - The Parish Internship

“Can I really do this for the rest of my life?” While you never know unless you try, the one year parish internship of a seminarian is among the best indicators if priesthood is for you. It is during this 12-month period that the young man gets the opportunity to live the life of a priest while being mentored by a senior pastor.

Over the year, the seminarian intern lives at the parish with the pastor and takes part in the everyday activities and work of a priest. While I was not able to celebrate the Mass, hear confessions, or anoint the sick, my year in the French-speaking Ottawa parish was very rich with powerful experiences of witnessing God’s grace at work in the world.

Today’s priest is a traveler. He spends a lot of his time visiting people. During my internship, I found myself often engaged in going out for such visits. Preparing children for sacraments and answering their questions in the classroom take up a lot of time especially if the parish is responsible for several schools. Visiting the elderly in retirement homes is such a rewarding experience also since many are alone in life and family only comes to visit them on evenings or weekends. I found that discussing what marriage means to young couples as they prepare for a life together was also a very special. Visiting the sick, the suffering and the dying in hospitals is a growing ministry and often a sacred moment when people want to discuss their faith or pray with a priest.

During my internship I realized how important it is to be a good listener during these visits. People come to the priest because they want God to be a part of their lives. While some people seek information about the faith, many more seek to be transformed by God’s loving presence. The priest’s attentive ear is often seen as a direct channel to God the Father’s ear. People share their experiences and emotions in times of suffering, despair, and confusion, or in times of great joy, celebration, and happiness.

In these personal encounters with people often there are moments where someone wants to know what the Church teaches on a particular subject or they seek the advice of a priest. At Mass too, the priest serves as teacher of the faith and interpreter of the sacred scripture in his homilies so that people may grow in their understanding of and love for God. During my internship I enjoyed sharing what I had learned through my years in the seminary. I also realized that I still had a lot to learn when I returned for two more years of study.

Being faithful to prayer is probably the most important part of a priest’s day. It is in celebrating Mass each day that we make Christ present in the Eucharist to the people we are called to serve. At Mass and in our personal prayer time the priest brings the needs of the people to God. Reading and meditating on the life of Jesus in the scriptures helps align the priest to Christ, this way; the priest will bring Jesus into each conversation and meeting with the people.

My year on internship gave me insight into the life of a priest today. Such a life is one that is lived very close to God and thus makes Him present to the world in each encounter and conversation. After the year in the parish, I was able to say with confidence that this is the life for me.

Answering the Call

April 3, 2015

The Apostle's Creed

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth,
And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried;
He descended into Hell;
On the third day he rose again from the dead;
He ascended into Heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty;
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
The holy catholic Church,
The communion of saints,
The forgiveness of sins,
The resurrection of the body,
And life everlasting. Amen.

April 1, 2015

The Four Cardinal Virtues

Author - Josef Pieper

This book was required reading for one of my philosophy courses. However, please don't let that turn you off from taking a look at this gem. This was one of those books that I could not put down. The wisdom and insights that Pieper describe certainly will change your life if taken to heart.

I found this book easy to read, practical, and jam-packed with wisdom on how to live a good life based on the thoughts of St. Thomas Aquinas; who many believe is the greatest theologian and philosopher of all-time. I was so excited after reading this book, that I recommended it to many of my peers and friends. To my surprise, one of the guys I mentioned it to said it was his favorite book of all time – and that he reads it once a year.

High praise from two priests – must be worth taking a look at don’t you think?

Book Reviews

Saint Gianna Beretta Molla

photo and content credit:
Catholic Online
Feast Day – April 28th

Patron Saint of mothers, physicians, and unborn children.

Gianna was an Italian pediatrician, wife and mother who is best known for refusing both an abortion and a hysterectomy when she was pregnant with her fourth child, despite knowing that continuing with the pregnancy could result in her death.

Famous quotes by St. Gianna Molla:

  • "If you must choose between me and the baby, no hesitation; choose – and I demand it – the baby. Save the baby!"
  • "The doctor should not meddle. The right of the child is equal to the right of the mother’s life. The doctor can’t decide; it is a sin to kill in the womb."
  • "One cannot love without suffering or suffer without loving."

March 3, 2015

Sent to the Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré Shrine in Québec

In May 2008 my life changed. At the time, I was a new seminarian who was about to begin theology studies at the seminary in Toronto the following September. I was sent to the Shrine of Saint Anne de Beaupré for the summer to join the Youth Pastoral Team. The goal that summer was to get some experience in ministry by helping with the busy summer pilgrimage season at the shrine and hopefully improve my spoken French at the same time. Not knowing much about Saint Anne, the Shine, or ever having visited Quebec City, I trusted that the Good Lord would take care of me and guide my steps.

Each day members of the youth team would join me to lead: the Stations of the Cross on the hillside, the Rosary in the basilica, the Holy Hour with Eucharistic Adoration, and serve at a couple of the Masses celebrated throughout the day. Each evening of the summer ended with the candlelight procession and prayers to Saint Anne. I began to learn much more about who Saint Anne was and the history of the devotion to her by volunteering at the museum next door giving guided tours.

Living in the monastery with the Redemptorist priests and brothers was a great experience. Everywhere I turned a smiling face would welcome me and share a story with this zealous young seminarian from Ottawa. The many lay people who work and volunteer at the shrine embraced me like I was family and one of their own almost immediately. The warmth of the community was enriched by the tremendous holiness I felt from the shrine. There was something very special about this place. The peace I felt in prayer here was like no other I had experienced. From that moment, I knew that Saint Anne wanted me to be a part of her work of leading souls to her grandson Jesus. Since that summer, I return each year for the 9-day Novena in July out of thanksgiving to my Grandma Saint Anne. Come join us this year!

These articles were published in the Annals of Saint Anne Magazine. They are from the column written by Father Matthew while he was a seminarian studying at Saint Augustine’s Seminary in Toronto. The articles describe some of his journey to become a Catholic Priest.

March 1, 2015

The Glory Be

Glory be to the Father,
and to the Son,
and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning,
is now,
and ever shall be,
world without end.

The “Glory Be” is known as a doxology, or phrase used to end prayers or hymns - in this case it is used to express our worship to God. This doxology describes how God has revealed himself to us as three persons, yet one God: Father, Son (Jesus), and Holy Spirit. We give equal worship and praise to the three persons that make up the Holy Trinity.

In this prayer we also acknowledge that God is eternal: present in the beginning of time, present now, and always present for eternity. One of the last verses in the Bible, from the book of Revelation, supports this belief that God is “the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” (Revelation 22:13)

What Does God Want?

A practical guide to making decisions
Author - Michael Scanlan (with James Manney)

This little book is such an easy and quick read. It has so many good tips to help with making decisions in our life. Scanlan says that we make about 200 decisions a day; some are small, while others are big and life-changing decisions.

His book gives you some strategies on what to look for when comparing options, and how to know that you've made the right decision after the fact. Scanlan offers a 5-part process for decision-making in any situation. This process was developed over his 30+ years of spiritual direction, counseling, and teaching. It is clear to see how his approach is grounded in the Catholic tradition. I’m sure that this book will help you in your everyday decisions, as well as with your big life-changing decisions.

Book Reviews

Saint Patrick

Feast Day - March 17th

Saint Patrick has to be one of the most famous saints in the secular world. It seems like on March 17th “everyone is Irish” and the green beer flows in abundance. But why is Saint Patrick associated with the Irish? Was he an Irishman? No. In fact he was born in England.

In his early 20s Patrick had a spiritual conversion, and in a dream it seemed as though all the children of Ireland were stretching out their hands to him. He understood the vision to be a call to do mission work in pagan Ireland which was dominated by the druids at this time. After years of study, Patrick was ordained a priest, and then later a bishop while he worked tirelessly to bring the faith to the Irish.

In a relatively short time the island had deeply experienced the Christian spirit, and was prepared to send out missionaries whose efforts were greatly responsible for Christianizing Europe.

What’s so special about the shamrock? Saint Patrick used the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity (God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit). The 3-leaf clover has been associated with him and the Irish ever since.

So next time you order some green beer, and claim to be Irish (each March 17th), remember that Saint Patrick played a great role in bringing Christianity to Ireland, which spread to Europe, and eventually here to us in North America. We have a lot to thank Saint Patrick for - most notably our faith.

February 18, 2015


Daily Lenten Reflections or Challenges:

You may consider doing a daily meditation during Lent.

Two people that I would recommend who are sending out daily meditations throughout the next 40 days are: Father Robert Barron and author Matthew Kelly.

Why not sign up for one or both this Lent?

Fr. Robert Barron:

Matthew Kelly:

Here are five other web sites that I suggest for daily scripture meditations:

Photo credit: http://www.icglenville.com/lentandeaster.htm

February 4, 2015

How do you become a priest?

“How did you know you are called to the priesthood?” and “How do you become a priest?” are the two most frequently asked questions I get. In the last article I answered the first question, and here I will answer the second.

The journey to priesthood differs from man to man; no two paths are the same. Each man brings with him a unique background of education and life experience which mean some adjustments must be made to their program of study and formation. The schedule also differs greatly if he is studying to be a religious like a: Jesuit, Redemptorist, Franciscan, or Dominican for example.

A solid background in philosophy is required before you begin studies in theology at the seminary. Some men spend up to 4 years studying philosophy after they finish high school; while others who already have a university degree in another subject and have years of work experience can go through an intensive one-year philosophy program.

Currently Saint Augustine’s Seminary offers a 6-year program. The theology studies are offered over four years through a teaching partnership of professors between the University of Toronto and the Seminary faculty in-house. During these four years of study, the candidate takes courses in a diverse field of subjects such as: Sacred Scripture, Dogmatic Theology, History, Canon Law, Ethics, Liturgy, Pastoral Counseling, Psychology, Preaching, Interfaith Studies, and Parish Administration.  There are also many choices of elective courses available if you have a special interest you wish to learn more about such as the scriptural languages of: Latin, Greek or Hebrew.

In the middle of the four-year theology studies is an internship year. This 12-16 month experience allows the candidate to see first-hand the everyday life of a parish priest. Here he lives with, and is mentored by, a seasoned pastor in a busy parish. Often this helps the candidate and the Church discern if priesthood is this man’s vocation. Many of my peers find this to be one of the most enjoyable experiences of the formation program.

There are many opportunities for hands-on ministry throughout the 6-year program since the academic formation only lasts from September to April. During the 4 months of the summer, or throughout the academic year, the men chose to do placements as a hospital or military chaplain, others visit schools giving talks and catechesis to the youth, others volunteer at a nearby shelter and soup kitchen, and others visit the elderly in long-term care facilities. Many live in a local parish during the summer and help in their home diocese, while others take regular jobs to earn money to pay for their books and school expenses for the upcoming year.

Before all the studies or the internship, the candidate begins the first year in an intensive program of spiritual growth and detachment from the secular society. During this time at the seminary, the candidate fasts from all media, such as: the television, internet or cell phone use, and music. Without distractions, and often in silence, the man uses this time to build the foundations of a solid prayer life as he spends countless hours studying sacred scripture, the Catechism and in prayer.

February 1, 2015

The Hail Mary

The first of the two passages are from Saint Luke’s Gospel in the greeting of the Angel Gabriel to Mary. The opening word ‘hail’ literally translated means ‘rejoice and be glad.’

The second passage is the response of Elizabeth when Mary arrives with the Good News that she will give birth to a son, and name him Jesus (‘God with us’ in Matthew 1:23).

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, (Luke 1:28)
Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. (Luke 1:42)
Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

First Comes Love

This is the first of Hahn’s books that I’ve read. He comes to me highly recommended by many Catholic parishioners who enjoy reading as much as I do. Friends of mine have told me about him over the years but I never made it a point to read something of his until now.

This book is easy to read and an excellent book for all families – especially for parents. Hahn does a great job of connecting the family’s interior life with that of the Trinity. It is beautiful how he brings all members of the family unit deeply into the inner life of God in the Trinity. Since reading this book, I have a new understanding of how God created humanity in His Divine image and likeness. Hahn also gives many practical examples for us so that we can easily understand what he’s trying to express.

I recommend this book for all families. It would be a great book for families to read and talk about together especially since we are preparing for the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia later this year. Couples would also benefit from such an easily presented view of God’s presence in family life.

Book Reviews

Saint Blaise

Feast Day: February 3
Patron Saint of Throat Illnesses

At the beginning of the month, you may remember getting your throat blessed. February 3rd was the feast day of Saint Blaise, the patron saint of throat illnesses. Here two candles are blessed, held slightly open and placed against the throat as a blessing is said.

Saint Blaise’s protection and help for those with throat troubles comes from the legend that a boy was brought to him who had a fish bone stuck in his throat. The boy was about to die when Saint Blaise healed him.

 “Through the intercession of Saint Blaise, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from all ailments of the throat and from every other evil. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Amen.


January 7, 2015

From the Boardroom to the Bishop's Office

Why would any man change from corporate businessman to seminarian studying for the priesthood? In 2007, I was in charge of a multi-million dollar business division at IBM. I had everything that the world and society told me defined success and would bring happiness: an excellent job, a promising career, a beautiful girlfriend, and a nice place to call home. Life was good. I thought I had it all. Everyone told me I was successful. But something was missing – I was empty inside. Surely there had to be more to life than this?

I heard God’s call to the priesthood at a young age. Yet in high school guidance counsellors and teachers encouraged everyone to go to university or college, so I just did what everyone else did. I kept pushing away the idea of becoming a priest because I did not want to seem different, but the truth is I was different. We are all unique and we should not be afraid of being different – it’s what makes us special.

What I call the “checklist in life” as determined by today’s society was getting done at a rapid pace. Yet with each checkmark, the Holy Spirit was leading me elsewhere. I began to have this desire to serve God instead of a company. I wanted to save souls for Christ rather than to save expense dollars for a corporation. I wanted to promote life and love, rather than capitalism and new business opportunities. People began to tell me at Mass or in Confession that I would be a good priest.

I developed an overwhelming gratitude for God’s generosity in my life. I began to understand more profoundly that Jesus died on the cross for MY sins! I began to pray more often; even several times throughout the day. I started to attend weekday Mass as often as possible. What was happening? I asked my pastor if he would help navigate this transformation going on in my heart.

I began to read the Bible during coffee breaks at work and in spare time at home. The Word of God began to jump off the pages and penetrate deep inside my heart like never before. God’s love started to become real, something tangible, and not just something that I heard other people talking about.

I attended WYD that summer. The experience was overwhelming. There I saw firsthand how the Catholic Church truly is universal and guided by the Holy Spirit. Meeting good Catholic friends through the experience helped me grow in the faith and they provided a supportive environment to live the Christian values. As I tried to return to the regular life in the months that followed, Jesus’ invitation to follow Him as a priest became something I could no longer push aside or ignore. “I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’” Each morning I reply, “Here I am! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8)

Epiphany 2015 (Sunday homily)

Mary Mother of God January 1st 2015 (Sunday homily)

January 6, 2015

The Lord's Prayer

When one of the disciples asked Jesus (Luke’s Gospel Chapter 11),
“Lord teach us to pray,”

He replied:
Our Father, who art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy Kingdom come,
Thy will be done, On earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day, our daily bread.
Forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil. Amen.

Searching for and Maintaining Peace

This small 118-page paperback is jam-packed with great insights on achieving interior peace. I think that many people get really stressed out this time of year from their time after boxing week shopping in busy malls/parking lots, travelling, with bills coming in from Christmas shopping,  and from family gatherings that may have brought up old wounds. 

This book was recommended to me by a friend who said that it was the best book he ever read. With such high praise, I told my friend that I would read it eventually, but that I had a couple other books on my 'to read' list that was ahead of it.

He bought me the book and hand delivered it to me four days later. I was stunned how persistent and generous he was so I put everything else that I was reading aside and started reading Philippe's gem. Why not start off the New Year in peace?

Book Reviews

Saint Thomas Aquinas

Feast Day - January 28

Many have argued that Aquinas had the greatest intellect Christendom has ever known, and others have said that he is the greatest theologian and philosopher of all time. After reviewing 4 books on him, my favorite quote that helps illustrate the magnitude of his genius was that: 'Thomas could've run circles around Einstein, Newton, or Stephen Hawking.'

He is one of 35 Doctors of the Church, and his prolific writings are still studied and cited regularly, now 800 years later. In fact, much of my required course reading in the seminary, liturgical hymns, and Christian prayers came from him. The unity, harmony and continuity of faith and reason, of revealed and natural human knowledge, pervade his writings.

Thomas is often depicted in images with a church, scripture, and a Eucharistic near his heart. Many of the Eucharistic Hymns we sing at Mass come from Aquinas, while his explanations of Sacred Scripture are the basis for many other scholars, and his theology is essential for the formation of priests today.

Here’s my favorite Eucharistic hymn by Aquinas: