Good afternoon everyone.
I have found myself increasingly distracted and troubled by the news over the last few years but especially over the last few months. What is the bias and who is telling the truth? “Fake News” has become a bit of a catch phrase and does little to capture the dilemma that so many of us face as we try to figure out what is going on, what is it that we need to know and why is it important that we know it. Even in the day to day life of the church, we sometimes have to pile over countless “authentic sources” to get to the real story and to the truth. After a drubbing from his critics in some Catholic media and online platforms recently, Bishop Robert Barron gathered some colleagues who write regularly for the Catholic press for a discussion on what has happened to honest dialogue and fair reporting and discourse. Reports on their discussion don’t seem to have any practical suggestions or solutions.
I saw Polish film maker Agnieszka Holland’s latest offering, Mr. Jones a few weeks ago. A true story about a Welsh reporter for an English newspaper, Gareth Jones finds himself in the Ukraine in 1933 at the height of the catastrophic famine when millions died. The movie also introduces an American reporter for the New York Times, Walter Duranty. These two men tell the story of what they see and hear very differently. Jones, after ditching his assigned communist minder, encounters indescribable human tragedy and recklessness on the part of the Russian government under Stalin in the Ukraine. Duranty, a shrewd reader of the times in which he lives, settles for the “news” from the comfort of his privilege in Moscow. The film is a powerful story about witnessing and remembering what was seen and heard and what happens when you choose to look the other way and “forget” what you have heard. It is a tough film to watch but it has so much to say about the dilemma we find ourselves in when we forget to ask the bigger questions and look for the bias.
Witnessing and remembering is a very important part of our spiritual and intellectual life as Roman Catholics. As students prepare to go to university and college for the first time (or return to continue their education), please find some room in their luggage for a fine publication from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana which is available to download through the link here (for free). https://churchlife-info.nd.edu/faithful-science-integrating-science-and-faith Young people often use the excuse that the church and science are not compatible with each other and a good reason not to have anything to do with church and faith. Yet the historical journey of faith, science and the church in dialogue with each other offer a very different story. In this short publication, Christopher Baglow answers four basic questions that most of us think we know the answer to. Or do we? Faithful Science: Integrating Science and Faith might make for an interesting conversation for adults at the next barbecue. It has some good reflection questions at the end of each section.
Being in conversation is also an important part of our pastoral plan for the next year especially as we help parishioners, young and old, to enter more fully into the liturgical life of the church. The restrictions placed on us because of the Covid 19 situation make getting together difficult but that does not mean that we should park our brains and that all conversations stop. We are delighted to announce that in mid-September we will roll out a very exciting opportunity for every parishioner to “plug in” to online resources from the good people at Word on Fire Resources in California. Films, talks and articles are updated regularly and will arrive in your in-box every week with an opportunity to join online discussion groups facilitated by parishioners. Lynette and I will also use these resources in the sacramental preparation programs in the parish for parents. Students who are preparing to celebrate and will have just celebrated the Sacrament of Confirmation will also be encouraged to “plug in”.
As we begin to prepare for the next pastoral year, we have set dates for the Confirmation and First Communion celebrations that were missed in May. If all goes well, these celebrations will happen in the church during the weeks of late October and early November. We will publish the specific dates and times when we have had the opportunity to run them by the school principals. Sacramental preparation for children in 2021 will be delayed until the new academic year is underway and we have a clearer picture of how we are to move forward.
In the parish we keep moving forward with a little more confidence each week. We had a maximum capacity for the first time last Sunday at the twelve noon Mass. It caused a little bit of concern but everyone was able to find a seat. This week we have added some more seating to accommodate late comers and are preparing to open the Family Room (the sacristy) for September. The new process for disinfecting the church has been a huge relief on our time and on the wear and tear of the furniture in the church. I know that some parishioners are a little upset that they must leave immediately after Mass but the disinfecting process needs an empty building to be effective. The padded seats are a gift for our comfort but they need time to be dry completely for the next occupants.
We have been working on attending to the funeral list that accumulated during lockdown but have found ourselves with a large number of new funerals over the last few weeks which is unusual for this time of year. To our delight we are a bit overwhelmed by baptisms. Some were delayed but most have come to us in the last few weeks. Lynette, Richard and I will work on them each Saturdays and Sundays until late October to get to the end of the backlog. At the end of July the CWL test ran a coffee morning on the deck after the Friday Mass (using social distancing) that was very successful. We are looking at how we might make something similar work a few times during September. For the first time since the middle of March the parishes in Oakville have begun to respond to emergency calls at the hospital. It was our turn for a week beginning on Wednesday and ending at noon next Wednesday. So far, all works well but the procedures for washing hands (elbow to the tip of the hand), wearing gowns, gloves and shield takes some getting used to. It makes you appreciate even more what our health care workers have to go through each day. Daily Mass continues to be well attended and the steady stream of parishioners each Thursday morning for a time of private prayer in the church is inspiring.
Finally, next Saturday we celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of Mary with Mass at 9.00 am. in the church. As it marks the mid-point of August and the early preparations for returning to school, we will pray especially for Mary’s intercession for students and staff that all will be well and that everyone will have the patience and goodwill to make it the best possible experience despite the fear, confusion and uncertainty. Mass continues to be broadcast and available through our website early on Sunday morning.
The next letter will come on the first weekend of September. In the meantime, be well and may the beautiful weather and cool evenings stir your mind and heart to positive thoughts for the Lord of calm and storms walks with you.