Jay's Articles

I am useless as a leveler of hills, filler of valleys

Maria Kozakiewicz

December 1, 2014
Second Sunday in Advent
December 7, 2014

When Advent comes with its message of "prepare the way for the Lord," I panic. Not because of the message of the final days. In my mind this vision is inseparable from expectation of rest, peace and joy – and the meeting with love incarnate. The levelling of hills and filling up of ditches is what worries me. In my life I see nothing but ditches and hills, not a bit of a smooth road built. How is Jesus to come to me through these thorny brambles? How will he cross the stagnant lake of my sloth? And, if I want him to come, where do I start? Is there a place where he will be able to set his foot in me?

Pope preaches uncompromising Gospel

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December 1, 2014

For some Catholics at least, there exists the frightening prospect that the media is right about Pope Francis – that the pope is trying to make it easier to live the Gospel, that he wants to water down the faith and that he wants Catholics to get in step with modern society. There was, of course, the famous "Who am I to judge?" comment the pope made shortly after his election in relation to homosexual activity. Now, there is the prospect that it might become easier to obtain a Church annulment or possibly even for divorced and remarried people to be welcomed at Communion without having their first marriage annulled. Some fear all this means that the pope wants to alter Church teaching.

Canadian bombs are no solution to ISIS savagery

Douglas Roche

December 1, 2014

My seatmate on a recent flight from Toronto to Edmonton turned out to be a former solder, who, completely unprompted by me, said he had, while on duty in the Middle East, "killed for Jesus." I squirmed inside and tried to change the subject. When he said, unexpectedly, that he had no use for the United Nations, I decided that further conversation would not only be unproductive but possibly confrontational. A cramped Air Canada seat is no place for emotion-driven exchanges. Rather, I spent my time thinking about a seminar I had attended the previous evening on Canada's role in responding to ISIS (the abbreviation for the extremists now conducting savage warfare in parts of Syria and Iraq). Canada has joined the U.S.-led coalition now conducting air strikes against jihadist fighters. Canadian CF-18s are dropping bombs on military targets.

Ask the Spirit to guide you in your struggles

John Connelly

December 1, 2014
Third Sunday in Advent
December 14, 2014

In this week's Second Reading St. Paul offers these inspired words, "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5.17). Imagine if we actually did this. What if we all made prayer the continual focus of our lives? It is easy to say that everything we do is prayer. But we can dig deeper into this mystery of constant prayer. The Catholic Catechism says, "Prayer is a vital necessity. Proof from the contrary is no less convincing: If we do not allow the Spirit to lead us, we fall back into the slavery of sin. How can the Holy Spirit be our life if our heart is far from him?" (2744).

Are English-speakers rising in Rome?

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December 1, 2014

The appointment of English Archbishop Paul Gallagher to the Vatican's equivalent of a foreign minister has been heralded as part of the rise of English-speaking bishops in key Roman positions. Gallagher's appointment comes shortly after Australian Cardinal George Pell was put in charge of the Holy See's finances. However, it was not long ago that two Americans held top Vatican posts – Cardinal William Levada as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Cardinal Raymond Burke as head of the Church's supreme court. Levada retired and Burke was shifted to a lesser role as patron of the Knights of Malta.

Handwritten letters bring a personal touch to Christmas season

Lasha Morningstar

December 1, 2014

Scurry. Search. Sigh. Yes, it is almost Christmas and the "What am I going to get her/him/them?" is starting to scramble through our minds. Nighttime too. We mutter, "But they already have everything." Or, "I have no idea what to get them." An idea! People decry those who send out Christmas letters. But at least they touch base and we have a bit of a catch up. But what about an individual letter? That's right – pen, paper, envelope, stamp, maybe some photos to each specific person.

Papal reflections challenge Canada's political culture

Dr. Terrence Downey

December 1, 2014

While sections of Evangelii Gaudium have received considerable attention in the media ("I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out in the streets"), acute observations on politics and politicians have been overlooked. Many of these are instructive for Canadians as we enter a federal election year. While recognizing that politics "remains a lofty vocation . . . inasmuch as it seeks the common good," Pope Francis notes that human dignity and the pursuit of the common good sometimes "seem to be a mere addendum imported from without in order to fill out a political discourse lacking in perspectives or plans for true or integral development."

Mistrust of converts provides context for Guadalupe visions

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December 1, 2014

In his 1999 apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in America, St. John Paul II referred to Our Lady of Guadalupe as the hope for the new evangelization in the Americas. Mary's appearance to St. Juan Diego at the Aztec holy site of Tepeyac in 1531 had a decisive effect in bringing the Gospel to the indigenous peoples of present-day Mexico. In the document, the pope prayed that Mary's intercession would lead to an outpouring of the Holy Spirit "so that the new evangelization may yield a splendid flowering of Christian life." Indeed, the image of Mary miraculously emblazoned on Juan Diego's cloak was replete with symbols from the Aztec culture. The Church did not even have to deliberately accommodate its presentation of the Holy Virgin to the Aztec people; Mary had done the job.

Efforts to end homelessness call for true solidarity

Bob McKeon

December 1, 2014

Earlier this month, faith leaders from 25 churches and faith communities, including Archbishop Richard Smith, joined together at City Hall to renew their commitment to support the goal of Edmonton's 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness in our city. They reaffirmed the words of the Interfaith Statement they originally signed in 2011. Significantly, this statement ends with a list of values shared by the different faith communities: "respect for human dignity, solidarity with those who are poor and vulnerable, and an affirmation of the importance of inclusive and welcoming communities where individuals and families can thrive." This is an important message for us today. Solidarity is a strong word. Pope Francis, in a recent statement, insists that solidarity "means much more than some acts of sporadic generosity."

Religious persecution calls for faith, reason to embrace each other

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November 17, 2014

The 20th-century historian Arnold Toynbee once wrote, "The things that make good headlines are on the surface of the stream of life, and they distract us from the slower, impalpable, imponderable movements that work below the surface and penetrate to the depths." Yet, these slower movements are what affect society most deeply. That is why the 2014 report of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) on the state of religious freedom in the world ought to be of great concern. (See story on Page 11.) While religious persecution does make headlines, this does not happen enough to make it apparent that this is a great issue of our time.