My dear friends,
Easter blessings to each of you! As an Easter people we continue to celebrate the resurrection of our Saviour Jesus Christ. Our Paschal candle continues to burn brightly in our sanctuary and represents Christ, the Light of the World. In fact, it will continue to burn for the entire fifty days of the Easter Season, concluding on Pentecost Sunday when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles. The candle is made of pure beeswax and represents the sinless Christ who was formed in the womb of this His Mother, Mary. The wick signifies His humanity, and the flame His Divine nature, both soul and body.
At our Easter Vigil I had the honour of lighting this candle with the new Easter fire, symbolizing our eternal life in Christ. We then processed into our dark church, and with tapers, that light spread throughout the congregation to those both in person and our virtual congregation. It is that light that is so very special for this truly is the light of Christ – thanks be to God.
This weekend we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday. In the Divine Mercy image, we see the risen Christ whose hands and feet bear the marks of the crucifixion. The two rays coming forth from Jesus signify the sacraments of mercy (Baptism and Penance), and the Eucharist. For me, this is an invitation to encounter Christ and for us to place our complete trust in our Lord.
As we continue to navigate through these times together with Christ as our guide, may we seek strength in our faith and in the one who defeated death. It is the light of the risen Christ who continues to lead us in times of darkness. May we not lose hope, for we are an Easter people.
Jesus, I trust in you.
May God continue to bless and protect each of you and those that you love.
My dear parish family of St. Julia,
Waiting. Having just celebrated our Good Friday services, Holy Saturday is a time of waiting. It is on this day that Jesus is in the tomb before his glorious rising from the dead on Easter Sunday.
Waiting. Our community has had the honour of journeying with and praying for Nicole, who will be baptized in the Catholic faith, and Jacob and John, who will be received into the Catholic Church at our Easter Vigil. They have been waiting anxiously for this day. The good kind of anxious, when they will encounter Christ in the sacrament of Confirmation and the Eucharist.
Waiting. It has been a long year, yet it has flown by at the same time as time does. Many are waiting to hold and embrace a loved one. Many are waiting to return to their spiritual home of St. Julia, in person for Mass, and to celebrate this celebration of all celebrations, the Resurrection of our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Easter is all about hope. And we are called to be an Easter people. Not just during this Easter season of fifty days, but always. When we place our trust in God and in his son Jesus Christ, we come to realize, through the eyes of faith, that everything we have been waiting for is already here, for Christ is with us. That is why we have hope and are called to be people of hope, for we are not alone. So, whether you are joining us in person this Easter or virtually, wherever you may be, know that we are united around the altar, lifting one another up in prayer, and are united in the One, the One Christ, the One living Son of God, who has defeated death, and has gloriously risen from the dead. That is our faith. That is what we believe!
It is our faith and belief in the risen Christ that continues to see us through these times and is the very reason we have hope.
On behalf of your parish family of St. Julia, I wish each one of you and those that you love a blessed and grace-filled Easter.
Christ has truly risen from the dead. Alleluia!
This past week the principals from our Catholic elementary and secondary schools and the clergy from our diocese came together for our annual Lent Faith Formation. This year the gathering was virtual, and the facilitator was Catholic teacher, missionary, and speaker Joe Farris from North Carolina. Joe has spent the last 25 years serving the Catholic Church. He has worked as a youth minister, teacher, missionary, and leader of three nationwide ministries.
There is one thing in particular that Joe spoke about that jumped out at me. He noted the need to “create space to encounter Jesus.” Whether we are in Church or in our homes, we need to set everything aside. We need to set aside the grocery list, what I need to remember, the things that I have to do later today. We simply need to create a space to be fully present to our God.
I really appreciated this for as you know, at the beginning of Mass I will often say that we bring our petitions to the foot of the cross, and also our prayers of thanksgiving. But going one step further, in order to be fully present, we need to set aside as Joe says, or again place at the foot of the cross, the grocery list, all the things that need to be done, whatever it may be that is distracting us and perhaps pulling us away, and simply be. Be still. Be in the moment. Listen to the words of Sacred Scripture and how God is speaking to us. Listening to the Eucharistic prayers as if we were listening to them for the first time, or even the last time, because those prayers are for us, the church, for we make up the church, the Body of Christ.
Going even one step further, it is my prayer that we continue to create a space to encounter Jesus here at St. Julia. I truly believe that our new crucifix has done exactly that by transforming our worship space and giving us focus, focus on what Jesus did for us.
That is what this week, Holy Week, is all about. It is my prayer that I create a space for us to journey with Christ into Jerusalem as we cry out “Hosanna” this Palm Sunday. On Holy Thursday, to create a space where we gather around the table to listen to Jesus’ command to each of us to “take this all of you and eat of it.” On Good Friday, a space where we will hear Jesus give a loud cry and breathe his last. Then at our Easter Vigil, a place of prayer, silence, and darkness as we wait for Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. This is Holy Week, and it is at our spiritual home of St. Julia where I want to create a space, where we as a parish family will create a space, to encounter Jesus.
I pray that each of you have a truly blessed and grace-filled Holy Week.
May God bless each of you and those that you love,
I don’t know if you are like me, but I am just in awe that this is the final Sunday before Holy Week. This Sunday in our Gospel from John 12:20-33, we will hear Jesus proclaim, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.”
I can’t help but sit and pray in our church and be drawn into the mysteries of our faith by just taking everything in that is found in our sanctuary. Our lent banners, “He died so that I may live,” and “Forgiven,” speak so beautifully to this passage from Sacred Scripture. Jesus died for each one of us so that we may live. Jesus died for our sins. So many times, in our world the message is you only live once, and if it feels good, just do it. Many around us act like this is the only life and there is no life other than the one we know today. As disciples of Christ, we know otherwise. We believe that there is a life after this one here on earth. When we die, we journey from life to life, life here on earth to life to eternal life. There is a resurrection. All of this and so much more helps us to understand that there is more to living, and that everything we do today helps us to prepare for the life to come.
This is what Lent is all about. Preparing, striving to move closer and closer to being one with Christ, and mirroring Christ here on earth. Jesus’ death opened the gates of eternal life. He died for our sins. When we turn to God and confess our sins, we are forgiven, and receive grace, the sharing in the supernatural life of Christ, so that we may live. Our crucifix and Jesus’ dying on the cross makes this real for us, now in the most profound of ways.
As we journey through this Fifth Week of Lent together and prepare for Holy Week, the holiest of weeks for us in the Church, please know of my prayers. I pray that you will open your heart to encounter Christ in the sacraments, and receive the graces you need live. Embrace these days ahead. Consider coming to weekday Mass. Join us for our Lent Penance Service, either in person or virtually. Pray the Stations of the Cross with our community this Friday. Immerse yourself into the mysteries of our faith, so that you may live today, in this life, and prepare for the life to come.
Keep safe, and may God continue to bless you and those that you love.
P.S. Happy first day of Spring
Rejoice! This Sunday at Mass we celebrate Laetare Sunday. The Latin word Laetare means ‘rejoice’ and its origin is rooted in the Introit (opening chant) for the Fourth Sunday of Lent – Laetare Jerusalem: “Rejoice, O Jerusalem and come together all you that love her: rejoice with joy, you that have been in sorrow: that you may exult, and be filled from the breasts of your consolation.”
Laetare Sunday marks the midpoint of Lent and the rose-coloured vestments that I will be wearing at Mass give us a glimpse at the light of the end of the 40-day tunnel of penance. Yes, Lent is a penitential season. It is a time that we allow the spot light to shine in on our hearts, looking at the nooks and crannies to see what needs to pushed out, that is sin, in order to fully allow Christ to enter our hearts at Easter, with the new Easter light, the true light of Christ. This is what this Sunday is all about. Lent is not all about being somber. This Sunday we are called to rejoice in the reality of Easter – the promise of Easter – the resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
At this midpoint I ask myself the question, “How has my season of Lent been going?” I ask you the same question. If you can say it has been a good season and that you have experienced God’s graces and blessings, that you feel closer to Christ, that you have experienced spiritual renewal, then thanks be to God! If you say it has been a little rough, that your Lenten practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving have fallen short of what you set out to embrace at the beginning of the journey, fear not. We are at the midpoint. Consider this a reboot, a new start. Rejoice in the fact that our God is a God of second chances and fresh starts. That is what the Sacrament of Reconciliation is all about. Make the most of these next three weeks by striving to realign your heart with the heart of Christ, returning to Christ through prayer, and take the time for your spiritual renewal. Remember that Christ fell three times carrying the cross. Now we too get back up, as people of hope.
Remember that we are united in prayer. May God bless you and those that you love.
3 Things to Know About Laetare Sunday
Click here to watch a YouTube Video about Laetare Sunday
This Sunday’s Gospel from Matthew 2:13-25 recounts the “cleansing of the Jerusalem temple” by Jesus, as it is usually called. When I am visiting our St. Peter Catholic Elementary school classrooms (now virtually), sometimes I will get the question “Did Jesus ever get angry?” This is usually when I pray that the bell will ring. And so, we begin to unpack the answer together. Jesus was just like us, for he was fully human, (and as our faith teaches us, and fully divine). Taking it one step further, he was like us in all things but sin. This brings us to our Gospel, one of the best examples of Jesus getting angry.
The temple-market in the court of the Gentiles, as well as the money exchange tables, were meant for the benefit of the many pilgrims who would come to Jerusalem for Passover. Jesus, wishing to see the temple as something other than a market-place, sought to drive out the sellers and exchangers. “Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace,” Jesus said.
So, is it a sin to get angry? Jesus used his passions with zeal, with great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or an objective. He saw what was taking place in God’s house, His Father’s house, and spoke up. This zeal could in fact have cost Jesus his life. So, was this a sin, to speak with zeal, and what we may say get angry? No. We once again return to the commandments of “Love of God” and “Love of Neighbour.” Jesus saw what was taking place in the temple and spoke up because of His love for God. This was the use of passions for something good.
When we see offences taking place against our God and our neighbour, we too are called to use our passions, our emotions, given to us by God, to speak up. An example of this is abortion and medically assisted suicide. Every life, from conception to natural death, is a precious gift from God. Treating our Church, the House of God, with respect, is another example. Our belief in the Eucharist being the real presence of Christ is yet another. Any offence is most troubling, and would cause us anger.
So how do we speak up? This is done with the help of the Holy Spirit, and with a message delivered in love. Taking the very best of our passions, our emotions, and setting out to change the hearts of those that believe likewise, can bring about change. And as you know, we do not pray just for change, but transformation, so that there is no going back to former ways. And all of this is done delivered in a message of love.
As I am writing this, other examples come to mind, and perhaps as you are reading this some examples are popping into your head. Let us pray for transformation. May we call upon the gifts of the Holy Spirit that we received at Confirmation, for the courage to speak up, by our words, deeds, and action. All delivered in a message of love, using the very best of our passions and emotions.
Please know of my continued prayers. I look forward to coming together this weekend for the celebration of Mass, for many in person, at our spiritual home of St. Julia.
Welcome home, and may God bless you and those that you love.
This Sunday we once again hear the love letters of St. Paul as he writes to the Romans. As always, he opens with “brothers and sisters,” his beloved. Then he makes the bold statement “If God is for us, who can be against us?” As I always say, all Scripture is the living word of God, and Paul writes as if he is speaking to us in 2021. So, what does this mean for us today?
This is the beauty of Paul’s writings and this is what I believe we need to hear today. No matter what we face, whether that be financial difficulties, health challenges, family concerns, or even a pandemic, God takes each situation and somehow, beyond our understanding and comprehension, uses it for our benefit, in the here and now, and ultimately for our eternal benefit. This is indeed something to wrap our minds around.
God is with us always, in all our times of need, on this our earthly journey. God pours out His love and mercy upon us. Many times, in the present moment, this is not clear to us. It is only when we look to the past, to see how God brought something good out of a past challenge, that we can say to ourselves that we are not alone, and we trust that God will see us through this moment in time as well. This requires faith and trust in God.
We are God’s chosen ones. God is with us. It is no wonder Paul proclaims, "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?" The answer quite simply is NO ONE!
As we continue our Lenten journey together as a community of believers here at St. Julia, may we hold and keep one another in prayer. God is with us – and we, as His daughters and sons are loved. We must never forget that. May we unite any cross that we are carrying at this time with that of His son, Jesus Christ.
Please know of my continued prayers and I look forward to welcoming everyone home, that is to your spiritual home, very soon.
In our Gospel this Sunday from Mark 1:12-15, the Spirit drove Jesus into the desert. This past year, we too have found ourselves in a desert, in what feels like at times forty times forty days. Yet in other respects, it is hard to believe that it has been almost a year. Mark writes, “He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.” Angels.
The ministry of angels can be found throughout the life of Christ. It was an angel who announced to Mary that she would give birth to the Baby Jesus. Angels were present at Jesus’ birth. They warned Joseph. An angel was with Jesus when he was praying at the Garden of Gethsemane. Angels were ready to help when Jesus was betrayed. An angel rolled back the stone from the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. An angel announced the resurrection of Christ. Christ ascended into heaven with angels present. The list goes on of how angels played an important role in the ministry of Christ.
Just as angels surround the throne of God the Father and serve Him, they also were around Jesus - attending to God the Son. The angels observed Jesus dying a humiliating death between two robbers. They observed the great love that Jesus showed toward humanity.
As a parish family, the angels have been with us and our community here at St. Julia, watching over us.
May we embrace this season of Lent with an open heart, and allow the Holy Spirit, and the angels too, to minister to us as we seek a renewal of mind, body, and spirit.
Please know of my prayers for all of your intentions, and may God continue to bless each of you and those that you love.
What is Lent?
Lent is the 40-day season of preparation for Easter that ends on Holy Thursday, three days before Easter Sunday. During Lent, Catholics recall their baptism and do penance – fasting, prayer, and almsgiving as they commemorate the death and resurrection of Christ.
What is Ash Wednesday?
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the liturgical season of Lent. Palms from the previous Palm Sunday are burned – ashes from these palms are distributed on Ash Wednesday as a sign of penitence.
Why do Catholics traditionally give something up during Lent?
To do penance in preparation for the greatest feast in the Christian calendar.
What is fasting and abstinence?
The penitential days and times in the universal Church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent.
Abstinence from eating meat or some other food according to the prescripts of the conference of bishops is to be observed on every Friday of the year unless a Friday occurs on a day listed as a solemnity. The law of abstinence forbids the use of meat, but not of eggs, the products of milk or condiments made of animal fat.
Abstinence and fasting, however, are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Fasting in the Latin Church is the limitation of food and drink – typically to one main meal and two smaller meals, with no solid foods in between.
The law of abstinence binds those who are fourteen years of age and older. The law of fasting, however, binds all those who are eighteen to fifty-nine years of age (so until the beginning of their sixtieth year). Nevertheless, pastors of souls and parents are to take care that minors not bound by the law of fast and abstinence are also educated in a genuine sense of penance.
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops decrees that the days of fast and abstinence in Canada are Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Fridays are days of abstinence but Catholics may substitute special acts of charity or piety on this day.
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.
From Our Pastor