October 30, 2021
Good morning everyone.
The last few weeks have seen a gradual opening up to more normal routines and activities which give us hope for what is to come. In Ontario, a slow and carefully thought-out way forward has brought hope for the months ahead and it is increasingly clear that the majority of Ontarians have embraced a cautious route for safety and care for our neighbour.
With all of that in mind personally, it was a treat to find my way back to a movie theatre a few weeks ago to watch a medieval story that is very modern in its themes. This week, I went back to watch a new release that is receiving a lot of positive attention from many sources. Mass sounds as if it is a religious movie and must have some Catholic context but is instead about the devastating consequences on the lives of the parents of a high school student killed in a mass shooting in his school who, several years later, agree to meet with the parents of the student who killed him. If you like movies this is a must see, but, be warned, it is a tough subject. The first surprise after watching it is to discover that it is the first feature length movie written and directed by a young man (late thirties) who handles the subject with the wisdom and maturity of a pro. The second is that for one hour and fifty minutes, you feel as if you are sitting in a corner of the room where almost all of the action takes place and as time moves on, you dig deeper into the seat and not make a sound (and ignore the popcorn and pop). The two couples meet and thrash out the questions and accusations, rage and disorientation that they have lived with every day since their sons died. The movie is set in an Episcopal church in the western US and while it is not religious, the religious themes of justice, forgiveness, mercy, silence and memory are at its core. Two scenes in particular linger long after the lights came back on. The first is the silence which descends on the room when the raw emotions accompanying memories touched, exhaust the parents and the viewer. Because this encounter takes place in a church, you find yourself praying that for these tortured souls, Grace will enter this space in the silence even if it is for a few moments. The second comes towards the end when you realize that the film up to this point has had no music to move the narrative along. A piano and a voice begin to sing a hymn upstairs in the church and instead of being an intrusion, it is a welcome visitor that opens the door for another moment to pause and listen while the bitterness and buried rage glimpse an opportunity to escape into the warm colours of mercy and forgiveness, even if it is for a few moments. This movie deeply affected me even days later and also confirmed that the younger generation is gradually bringing to us, in language and media sources old and new, thoughtful reflections and honest questions about values and the search for the grace to transform our lives and move us forward with hope that we can be better versions of ourselves. Faith and religion may be relegated to the sidelines, but their age-old truths are at the heart of these brave explorations.
Silence is a theme very appropriate for us as we approach next week and the feasts of All Saints and All Souls on Monday and Tuesday. In the parish on both days, Mass is celebrated at 9.00 am. and 7.30 pm. (please note the later time). These are days filled with memories and traditions that encourage us to remember our loved ones who have died and to celebrate their impact and ongoing presence in our lives. On the Christian journey we are daily reminded that we too are on a journey and one day the Lord will come out to meet us at the threshold of the heavenly kingdom and beckon us home. These are not days of sadness but days to rejoice and celebrate, to remember and be glad.
Last weekend we celebrated the last wedding for 2021. For next year the calendar is filling up with bookings for weddings that include those delayed for two years because of the Covid restrictions. We still receive many requests from couples who love the “pretty white church by the lake” but do not reside in the parish and have no connection with it. We are polite in encouraging them to go back to the parish that they reside in but sometimes, no is a difficult answer for the couple and their family to hear. Please help us to spread that word that we are not “difficult” or “stubborn” and if we could make the church available we would, but, sometimes it is not available. One of the contributing factors to these requests I think is the increase of pedestrian traffic on weekends and the new reality that Oakville is now a “destination” for visitors.
Baptism’s continue with catchup from the spring and summer. Each weekend we average three baptisms, one family at a time. It is interesting to note that despite the catchup, we are noticing an increase in families requesting baptism. Similarly, Sharon made the observation last week that we are seeing a significant number of registrations by new families in the parish compared to the last few years. This is very good news indeed. Mass on Sunday (since we returned to the old schedule on Sunday morning) has also seen an increase in attendance and some patience is required to find seating for everyone. The choirs add their special touch now that they are back and sharing their gifts safely. Over the next few weeks, we will celebrate some Confirmations and First Communions with individual families at a regular weekend Mass.
On October 16th, eighteen of us from the parish spent most of the day safely working through a process to look at the steps needed to develop a pastoral advisory committee and a profile for a pastoral life coordinator staff position. It was a very energising day and good conversation and reflection have left us with much to ponder. We have a follow-up meeting on the 8th and will share the next steps afterwards. The Finance Committee met on Tuesday afternoon to review the finances and our progress to date with the budget. The parish is managed carefully and spending carefully monitored but we will end the year with a significant deficit due to the decline in revenue caused by the Covid lockdowns, the restrictions on capacity and the reluctance of many parishioners to return to Mass because of Covid spread. The committee will meet again in December.
Finally, over the next few weeks, you will hear more about the synod preparations that Pope Francis has called the church around the world to work towards. The Diocese of Hamilton will release its process on Tuesday and we will make it available to you as well as the opportunities to become personally involved. On December 7th, Fr. Joseph de Viveiros CR will join me for a more robust conversation on the background to the “Synodal Process” and the reason behind Pope Francis call to the church to engage in this process at this time. You can join us live in the church or online for this conversation and more information will come later.
May the saints and those we have loved and who now live with the saints in glory be with us and bless us during these days.