January 30, 2021
Good morning everyone.
I had a lovely surprise on Monday afternoon with a visit from Catherine Hurley, a neighbor and parishioner, who dropped off a pair of brass branch candlesticks that she has donated to the church in memory of her parents and family. They hold seven candles each and would normally be used on Holy Thursday and for exposition and benediction of the Blessed Sacrament throughout the year. They are old and in great shape and have had a fascinating journey from St. Mary’s Chapel at Madonna House in Combermere, a brief time Ottawa, and for the last few years, at her home here in Oakville. At some point in its history, St. Andrew’s must have had a similar pair of candlesticks and I am delighted that, even though they only appear for special occasions, we can enjoy them. For the time being they will be visible at the side altars for Mary and Joseph. We have also acquired an icon of St. Joseph with Jesus to mark the Year of St. Joseph that Pope Francis has asked the church around the world to observe. For his feast day in March, we will produce a prayer card for home use and reflection on this very important member of the Holy Family of Nazareth. The icon will replace the one of Jesus the Teacher in front of the ambo until the end of the year.
We begin the season of Lent on February 17th. Because we are not sure where we will be with the current restrictions, we are making plans for Mass both in the church and recording and live streaming. In the February 13th letter I will include an aid for Ash Wednesday that could be used in your home. Unfortunately, the technology to “beam the ashes” to everyone’s home is still being developed. The distribution of ashes was modified in a recent letter from the Roman congregation responsible for the sacraments. Instead of placing ashes on the forehead in the sign of the cross, it is sprinkled over the crown of the head. This is not a new innovation and has been a practice in many parts of the world for centuries. When I lived in Waterloo, students from China and some South American countries found our practice unusual. Some would ask after the Mass was over if we would sprinkle the ashes over their head. Pope Francis brought the practice to St. Peters when he came to Rome in 2013.
For Lent, instead of promoting a specific book this year, we will distribute an article each week from the Canadian writer and academic, Fr. Ron Rolheiser OMI with a set of guiding questions. The Word on Fire series will continue as well with material appropriate for the season of Lent. Fr. Rolheiser’s articles are chosen specifically to draw us more deeply into understanding, in a more contemporary setting, the meaning of the pastoral mystery in our lives. As an author, he is widely regarded as among the best in the world writing today and the articles chosen are a very good introduction to his work.
The Word on Fire Series with Bishop Barron is leading to some good discussion and questions from parishioners. In the last few weeks especially, some interesting questions for more reading resources or direction on where to go next have come in. Some of these conversations have raised a concern that Dr. Google and other search resources can lead down rabbit holes and mass confusion. Tony Cestra is a great resource and has is very familiar with the Word on Fire offerings. He will be happy to point anyone looking for more in the right direction. I am happy to help as well and we can also draw on the expertise of Fr. Felix who taught theology for many years and is a voracious reader of contemporary theology and church matters. On February 20th a new series will begin that looks at the Seven Deadly Sins, Seven Lively Virtues which is perfect material for the inward spiritual journey that Lent is meant to be.
Continuing with the Lenten theme, we are also in the process of preparing two versions of the Stations of the Cross to be recorded for our website for use at home or in the church during Lent. The first re-visits a scriptural way of the Cross written many years ago by Saint John Paul II. The second presents Jesus journey to Calvary and his burial from the point of view of the women that met him along the way. The Advent retreat before Christmas was very popular (with over five hundred hits). We will follow it up before Holy Week and the end of Lent with a similar ninety-minute evening. This time, it will take the form of a conversation that will seek to answer Pilate’s question on Good Friday when Jesus appears before him, ….and what is truth? I have invited Fr. Joseph de Viveiros, a priest of the Congregation of the Resurrection from Kitchener, to take a deeper look at this question in its biblical context and in the contemporary experience, where the truth is often held hostage to other agendas.
We are also in the process of working on our parish engagement with staff and students in our schools during Lent by developing an online weekly series of meditations for Lent beginning on Ash Wednesday. St. Vincentand Saint Luke schools have found very creative ways to unite students, staff, parents and grandparents in prayer. When we can join them, Lynette and I come away from the experience inspired and refreshed. Adriana, the chaplain at St. Thomas Aquinas, has become a gifted practitioner of new media to reach out to students and staff with encouraging and supportive messages and prayers to calm anxious minds and bring a little bit of Jesus into daily life.
The chaplain at St. Thomas Aquinas is not the only one at the school using new media to connect with students. To support the Bell Let’s Talk initiative for good mental health this week, a group of students created a special short film to underline the message that each one of us has a duty to reach out, talk and connect with our friends. It is easy to be seduced and lulled by the black shadow that is neither healthy or helpful. Never Alone was written and directed by Emma Pascu, Jack Kukolic and Meghan Pask and students; Jacob, Meghan, Adham, Gregory and Samantha give award worthy performances. The music is extraordinary. I was deeply moved by it and you can watch it from this link (you may have to skip the advertising): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z68f4m9fZ_g&feature=youtu.be
We celebrate the feast of our Lady of Lourdes on February 11th. which is also the World day of Prayer for the Sick. Mass for this special day will be available all day online and will include special prayers for the sick, especially those who are ill with or recovering from the Corona virus. I was reminded while I was on call at the hospital, that many people who have had the virus are still struggling with lingering symptoms, often serious and in too many cases, proving to be difficult to treat.
The parish Finance Committee meet over Zoom on Tuesday afternoon. Greg Gallant, Dan Hallinan and Daljeet Banwait (our bookkeeper) met earlier this week and I joined them for a while as they closed the book on the 2020 financial year and worked on the budget for 2021. Despite everything that happened during the year, we are in good financial shape thanks to their, and the Finance Committee’s, wise and steady stewardship of the generosity of our parishioners. While I was reviewing the report, I was especially struck by the generous donations through the parish or raised in the parish for local charities and charities in the diocese of Hamilton and beyond. It is a wonderful example of our parish recognizing the need for mercy and kindness beyond our own comfortable walls in the peripheries where there is a great need for kindness and a helping hand. Sharon, who is balancing work from home and in the office, will begin to prepare and print the tax receipts for 2020 next week. You should receive them in the mail beginning the second week of February. We are on target to begin the roll out of the One Heart, One Soul Campaign in a few weeks. More information will be coming to you soon.
That is it for this week. Please join us for Mass this weekend here: https://www.standrewoakville.com/sunday-masses-online/ Let us continue to pray for each other, for good health and for the safe delivery of the vaccines that will bring us protection.