That the Epiphany is the feast which celebrates the manifestation to the world of the newborn Christ as Messiah, Son of God, and Saviour of the world? We read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that the feast of Epiphany celebrates the adoration of Jesus by the wise men (magi) from the East, together with his baptism in the Jordan and the wedding feast of Cana in Galilee. As we begin this new year, we (including myself) must remind ourselves to seek out Christ in the ordinary, the everyday. And so, we pray together…oh come let us adore him…each and every day of the year.
May God continue to keep you safe, and I look forward to when we can all gather together again in person as the parish family of St. Julia.
New Year's Day is not just the start of a new year, it's also a Holy Day of Obligation in the Catholic Church? On January 1st we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, a liturgical feast day honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary's motherhood in the wake of the birth of the baby Jesus Christ. This holiday is also the Octave of Christmas or the 8th day of Christmas. As Mary's fiat reminds the faithful: "Be it done unto me according to Thy word." A solemnity is the highest ranking holy day in the Church calendar. As a family of believers here at St. Julia, let us begin the new year together, in prayer as we turn to our blessed Mother for her intercession as she takes our prayers and petitions for the year ahead to her son, our savior Jesus Christ!
My dear friends,
Well, here we are. The Fourth Sunday of Advent has arrived. Whether in person or virtually on our YouTube Channel (still hard to believe we have a YouTube Channel), we have journeyed together throughout this season of preparation for the coming of Christ this Christmas. In many ways it is a journey and a calling home.
In the midst of all that we are going through this season, Advent is a joyful celebration of the condition we find ourselves in as Christians. It announces that God is always moving towards us. God is at work in the world and in our lives, ever creative and ever renewing. The Lord comes to us every day if we are properly disposed, in prayer, in events and in other people. Yes, even in the midst of a pandemic. God continues to create and to reveal his love for each of us.
The good news is that we are pilgrims on the move and are going home to God's house. The only worthwhile baggage to carry on that journey is good works and acts of loving service performed for Christ.
The liturgy invites us to allow this future hope to shape our present lives. It's an invitation to see our life as a preparation for the great call home. We have the assurance that in Christ God has opened up for us a future hope in a life beyond our time. What we need to do is find the time and space to stop, reflect and recognize the hope we have been given in Jesus Christ. Perhaps this is exactly what this pandemic has allowed us to do.
Without repentance, forgiveness and renewal there can be no real Christmas joy. Yes, there can still be joy this Christmas. While Christmas may be simpler and quieter this year, there is still joy to be found and lived out – in the revealing of God’s love for us in taking on our human flesh and becoming one of us in the form of a baby. All done in and out of love for each of us.
Please be assured of my continued prayers and know that we are very much united in prayer at every Mass I have the honour of celebrating with and for each of you.
May God continue to bless each of you and those that you love. Stay safe.
My dear friends,
As you may already know, I spent many years working in retail. In the midst of the busy Christmas shopping season I can recall around this time looking forward to it all being over – the craziness of the season. Christmas day would eventually come, and I was grateful that the day had finally arrived – because I knew that I made it through another season. Add on to that the fact that I had been listening to Christmas music in the store from the beginning of November and I will admit that I was done. Christmas day was a day of rest, and it all began again on Boxing Day. Yes, we would attend Christmas Mass together as a family, yet the true meaning of the season was somehow lost. This was the reality of my life. That was then, and this is now.
This year for some reason is especially different. Yes, the Christmas music has been on the radio since the beginning of November, yet I am in the car less these days, and in the shopping mall even less. While everything has changed and slowed down in the midst of the pandemic, somehow I am in awe that it is December the 12th, and I ask myself where has the year gone? Now, here we are, at the third Sunday of Advent, the midpoint of the season of preparation for the coming of Christ into our hearts at Christmas, and we speak of the rose candle of Joy. I ask myself what is it that I am feeling? Does joy come to my mind? Does joy come to your mind?
Just like the season of Lent all those months ago, this is a very different season of Advent. Yet there is something very different between the two. We are able to gather together at St. Julia for the celebration of Mass, the source and summit of our faith. For that reason, I feel a sense of joy. For us as disciples, it is at the Mass that we are fed with the Word of God and the Eucharist, the real presence of our Saviour, body, blood, soul, and divinity. It is what is keeping us going through these times, as people of hope, peace, love, and yes, joy. Some may be reading this thinking I have not been to Mass in nine months. Imagine that, nine months. Yet I know that you are home safe, longing to return to Mass. I rejoice in the fact that I know you are safe. I know that this too shall pass, and that one day we will all be one again at St. Julia. And that is what the Eucharist and Communion is – one – one with Christ.
Once again, I remind us not to dwell on the past or to worry about the future. That is a sure way to suck the joy out of the present moment. As Dr. Josephine Lombardi put it recently, worry is the thief of the present moment. When we live in the moment and count our blessings for what we have and the gift of our faith, we can live in the peace of Christ, the peace that Christ, and I, want for each and every one of you. We look forward to when we can all gather together as one. And in a more profound way, perhaps like never before, we wait with great expectation for the coming of Christ into our hearts this Christmas.
May we be ready to welcome our Saviour with open arms.
Please, please know of my continued prayers for your mental, physical, and spiritual well-being, and may God continue to bless each of you and those that you love.
My dear friends,
Our Advent journey continues as we enter the second week of preparations for the coming of Christ into our hearts this Christmas. This past week many of the clergy of our diocese had the blessed opportunity to take part in a virtual Advent morning of recollection with Dr. Josephine Lombardi. Dr. Lombardi provided us with rich insights and reflections, drawing us into a deeper relationship with Christ and our Blessed Mother. This was time very well spent.
One question that Dr. Lombardi posed is that what we should ask ourselves is “What does it feel like to be in my presence?” In other words, when people are with me, either at home, or work, school, when they see me at the grocery store, or here at St. Julia, how do they feel? What are they thinking when they walk away? Or, what are they thinking when I am speaking, praying that they are listening to me? Dr. Lombardi said that they should sense our Lord. They should sense the fruits of the Spirit.
Taking the candles on our Advent wreath, when people are in my presence, do they feel a sense of hope? Do they leave with a sense of peace in their heart? Joy? Love? This is yet another opportunity and challenge. We know very well the challenges we are facing at this time – together – never alone. Yet we have an awesome opportunity to radiate what it is that we believe, and to radiate the one who dwells within us. That is our saviour, Jesus Christ.
Please know of my prayers for our continued health and safety, and may God bless each of you and those that you love.
The new liturgical church year begins this Sunday with ADVENT. If you were an early subscriber to our newsletter, you will recall that when you opened one of these first newsletters the word “HOPE” jumped off the page. Now here we are, and another season of Advent has come, it feels, out of nowhere. Just like Sacred Scripture, the living Word of God, this message of HOPE is alive, and one that I believe we need to hear as we navigate through these times together. Christ is our source of HOPE and continues to be our navigator.
To complete my studies in the seminary, my final comprehensive theological reflection paper was titled “Assistance During Difficult Times: Ministry of Providing Authentic Christian Hope.” It was in fact based on my summer here at St. Julia in 2015 when I was deacon. So, here is some bedtime reading on Hope.
Hope is the theme of the entire Bible. Both the Old and New Testaments are interwoven with anticipation of some future good, be it the end of a flood, deliverance from slavery, or the coming of the Messiah. This hope that we as Christians speak of refers to Christ, “our hope,” for it is our hope in God’s promise and the person of Jesus Christ that is the ground of hope, and is that which gives us hope. It is our very foundation. We read in Psalm 103:11 “as the heavens tower over the earth, so God’s love towers over the faithful.” This hope, given from God himself, stirs within the human that is positively grace; this hope is born of a gift, and as the theologian Anthony Kelly notes, “that gift is precisely the energies of God-given love.” This is the foundation of hope that is found in the entire Bible.
Jesus Christ is the foundation, the source, and the thrust of our faith, and it is in Jesus alone that we find our foundation for hope. What exactly is hope, Christian hope that is? As defined by Daniel Harrington, at its most basic level, hope is a desire accompanied by the possibility of (or belief in) its realization; thus hope has an object or focus, looks toward the future, and has some ground or basis in reality. Hope is faith and trust in the possibility of the not-yet which makes it worthwhile to live and be in the present; hope is what you make it, or better what you make of life. And the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines hope as “the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit.” These are just a few of the rich definitions of Christian hope.
As we begin our Advent journey as a community of believers here at St. Julia, it is my prayer that this season be a time spiritual renewal and one filled with many blessings.
O come, O come, Emmanuel.
May God bless and keep safe each of you and those that you love,
My dear friends,
This weekend we celebrate the great solemnity of Christ the King. As many of you know, I attended Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora, New York. This was always a wonderful celebration for the community to gather together in the greatest prayer of the church, the Mass. It would also mark the beginning of the American Thanksgiving break. So too do we give thanks, today and always.
As I say at every baptism, next to the gift of life, our faith is the greatest gift we could ever be given. In many cases, that gift comes from our parents. That faith stems from an ongoing and active relationship with God and His Son, Jesus Christ. That Son is rich in love and mercy. It is that love and mercy that we are called to share with others. This can be both a challenge and opportunity. Everyday, we hear about the great need, and that need is found right in our own community. I was in awe last week when Deacon George spoke of the generosity of our community in giving to the St. Vincent de Paul Society. Those donations provide for so many, the poor and the powerless. These are the ones who our King identifies with the most. Our King is not a king of wealth and power.
Jesus states, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me.” I will admit, I am still a work in progress. Our Gospel from this weekend reminds us that when we die, we will be examined by a just judge; this is the particular judgement. As our banners remind us, “Love God” and “Love Your Neighbour.” How have we loved God, and how have we loved one another, our sister and brother? How did we treat those in need, the least among us?
As a caring Roman Catholic community here at St. Julia, may we continue to care for those in need, for they are Christ in our midst. May we turn to our Lord, Christ the King, for help and assistance. May the Holy Spirit give us that nudge to see the need in our own backyard. May we seek comfort in our faith, and know that we need not be afraid. Everything we need for our salvation is given to us in Sacred Scripture, and each week we unpack it, together, and help one another along the way to bring it alive, to reveal Christ’s presence in our midst, all with the help of the Holy Spirit.
So how did we treat those who were hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked and imprisoned?
Know of my prayers, today and always, and thank you for all that you do to care for those in need.
pRAYER TO CHRIST THE KING
O Lord our God, you alone are the most holy king and ruler of all nations.
We pray to you, Lord, in the great expectation of receiving from you, O divine king, mercy, peace, justice and all good things.
Protect, O Lord our king, our families and the land of our birth.
Guard us we pray most faithful one.
Protect us from our enemies and from your just judgment.
Forgive us, O sovereign king, our sins against you.
Jesus, you are a king of mercy.
We have deserved your just judgment.
Have mercy on us, Lord, and forgive us.
We trust in your great mercy.
O most awe-inspiring king, we bow before you and pray;
May your reign, your kingdom, be recognized on earth.
Almighty and merciful God, you break the power of evil and make all things new in your son Jesus Christ, the king of the universe. May all in heaven and earth acclaim your glory and never cease to praise you.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
My dear friends,
The rising number of COVID-19 cases is of great concern. We thank God that there have been no outbreaks in our parish or in any of the 44 parishes in our diocese. This is all in thanks to our dedicated sanitizing volunteers and for each of you, joining us for Mass, who remain dedicated to keeping our worship space safe.
I once again remind everyone to:
As we continue to navigate through these times with Christ as our guide as we pray for an end to this pandemic, we place our trust in God while ensuring we continue with our best practices to protect the health and safety of all coming to worship with us at St. Julia.
We continue to pray for all those who have died from COVID-19, the family and friends who mourn their loss, and for all of the doctors, nurses and paramedics who care for the sick.
We also pray for those who are homebound, in long-term care facilities, and those who systems are compromised. May they continue to be safe as we pray for their mental, physical, and spiritual well-being.
Know of my continued prayers for each of you and those that you love.
My dear friends,
This past Monday we celebrated All Souls Day. Our evening memorial Mass was especially moving as we welcomed back to our church of St. Julia all those families who’s loved one was called home this past year. At the same time, we prayed for all those who have gone before us, and for those who mourn the loss of a friend or loved one. The Mass is still available on the St. Julia YouTube Channel to view.
As we pray for all of these souls, and the souls who have no one to pray for them, we are reminded that we are all travelling down the same road, and that one day we too shall be called home. Our readings for this Sunday encourage us to look at our lives and to ask ourselves the question, “If I was to be called home today, would I be ready?” In Matthew 25:1-13, the whole point of this parable is that we must be ready for the Lord. This means some work in the here and now, each and every day. This is nothing to be afraid of, but it is a reminder. We are here to help and to guide one another. Yet at the end of the day we are responsible for how we live our lives. Our first reading from Wisdom 6:12-15 encourages us to live well and to make good decisions about things. This involves reflecting the wisdom of God as presented to us in the Bible that we hear proclaimed at our Mass and in our private reading of Scared Scripture.
It is up to us to be faithful to that wisdom, to call upon the Holy Spirit to give us the wisdom we need, to use it in our life every day, and to give thanks every day.
Let us give thanks for the gift of our faith, and for all those who have gone before that lead us on the right path, both here on earth, and to our ultimate destination of heaven.
Wishing you a blessed weekend and week ahead,
My dear friends,
One of my summer assignments while in the seminary was that of a hospital chaplain. It was a life changing experience. During my visits to the patients I encountered many beautiful people. Many would share with me their stories and were just happy to have someone to talk to, and more importantly simply to listen. All too often I would return for a spiritual care visit and they were discharged. The fact that our paths crossed was no accident. One lady was especially interesting, and I would say saintly. She asked for my email address and would regularly email me (and many others I trust) with reflections. Flashing back to 2016, this is what she so beautifully wrote with respect to All Saints Day:
As children, we were often mesmerized by stories of the saints, especially the martyrs who died for their faith. Later, as adults, many of us are still keenly interested in learning more about the extraordinary people whom the Church has canonized, such as St. Teresa of Avila and St. Patrick, and the newer ones St. André Bessette and St. Mary MacKillop of Australia. Their stories enrich our faith, and encourage us to live more Christ-centered lives.
But we need only scan our own communities, to spot ordinary people living among us who radiate God's love and encourage us to keep going. They inspire us with their quiet patience and kindness, and by their perseverance in dealing with life's difficulties. St. Thomas wrote that the simplest and most effective way to sanctify is to disappear into the background of ordinary everyday routine. We often overlook the hidden saints in our midst, because they blend in so well with society, accomplishing ordinary tasks with extraordinary grace. I'm thinking, for instance, of the quiet caretakers who look after a loved one day in day out; or busy parents who teach the faith to other children as well as their own, or those who counsel pregnant woman who are tempted by abortion or people who suffer from some disability, either from birth or by accident, who none the less rise above their pain to contribute to their communities. I know many earth saints: some live just quiet lives as good parents and good friends and I love them, don’t you? There are several veering to Sainthood that I see regularly in my hum drum life.
I could not say it better myself.
May God bless all of you…you saints in the making.
From Our Pastor