Monday, September 26, 2016

Lectures by Michael D. O'Brien in memory of John Bentley Mays

In loving memory of John Bentley Mays
John Bentley Mays

Two lectures are to be offered by the noted artist and writer
Michael O'Brien on the theme of Mercy, reflections for the Jubilee
Year of Mercy.  The event is sponsored by Regis College and
the Catholic Parish of St. Thomas More, OCSP.

Michael D. O'Brien 
Thursday, November 17
Regis College, Queens Park Circle
7:00 p.m. Talk by Michael O’Brien
“The Vocation of a Christian Artist”
A mini art exhibit may be viewed before and after.

Friday, November 18
St. Thomas More / St Vincent de Paul
263 Roncesvalles, Toronto
 6:00 - 7:00 Holy Hour 
7:00 p.m.   Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament 
7:30 p.m.  Talk by Michael O'Brien
“Living Mercy in the City”
John Mays had been instrumental in initiating this project and so
it is fitting that the event be dedicated in his memory.

Free registration online at:

Born in Ottawa in 1948, Michael O’Brien is the author of twenty-eight books, notably the novel Father Elijah and eleven other novels, which have been published in fourteen languages and widely reviewed in both secular and religious media in North America and Europe.

His essays on faith and culture have appeared in international journals such as Communio, Catholic World Report, Catholic Dossier, Inside the Vatican, The Chesterton Review and others. For seven years he was the editor of the Catholic family magazine, Nazareth Journal.

He has given hundreds of public talks and lectures at universities and churches throughout Europe and North America, and has frequently appeared as a guest on television programs in several nations.

Since 1970 he has also worked as a professional artist and has had more than 40 exhibits across North America. Since 1976 he has painted religious imagery exclusively, a field that ranges from liturgical commissions to visual reflections on the meaning of the human person. His paintings hang in churches, monasteries, universities, community collections and private collections throughout the world.

Michael O’Brien lives near Combermere, Ontario. He and his wife Sheila have six children and nine grandchildren.

Patronal for our sister parish in Toronto -- Tuesday, Sept. 27 - 8:00 p.m.

Join us Tuesday at 8:00 p.m. (Sept. 27) as we celebrate the patronal feast of our (elder) sister parish ST. VINCENT DE PAUL with Sung Mass at the Church of St. Vincent de Paul, 263 Roncesvalles.

R.I.P. John Bentley Mays

 John Bentley Mays, a parishioner of St. Thomas More and member of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter died peacefully on Sept. 16 in Toronto, at the age of 75.  He was an influential art critic and best-selling author who wrote on matters of faith, art and culture.  

John's insightful writing appeared in the Globe and MailCanadian Art, The Catholic Register and the National Post, among numerous other national publications.
John  had a Faulknerian upbringing. According to his biography, he was born in 1941 “into an old family of cotton planters, small-town merchants and local politicians in the American South.” He came to Canada in 1969 and not long after resolved to become a writer. By 1980, he was the Globe and Mail‘s art critic – a post he held until 1998.

He was also known for writing bravely and eloquently about his own life, in books such as In the Jaws of the Black Dogs: A Memoir of Depression, and Power in the Blood, in which he tracks his family history through travels to Virginia, South Carolina, and Louisiana. Both were national best-sellers.

Later in his career he turned his attention to architecture and urbanism to which he brought clarity and accessibility. His book Emerald City Toronto Visited (1995) – about the development and history of Toronto’s network of neighbourhoods and its slow progress toward an international city – is still required reading for anyone interested in Toronto’s urban planning history.
John thought much of the Art Gallery of Ontario addition by Frank Gehry: “Gehry’s electric-blue design stands in friendly combat with the soaring table-top, next door, of the Ontario College of Art and Design by British architect Will Alsop, and, with its windows open to the city, it encourages viewers to recall contemporary art’s vital and ongoing relationship with contemporary metropolitan culture, its social problematics, conflicts and opportunities.”
Ardently pro-life and an Anglican who had entered into the full communion of the Catholic Church,  John described his conversion following a mystical experience at Lourdes (where he had never thought he would be in any way moved artistically or spiritually).  He wrote beautifully, thoughtfully and authoritatively on faith, culture, family and mercy. 
John's Funeral Mass according to Divine Worship: The Missal (Ordinariate rite) was celebrated by the Catholic Parish of St Thomas More, 263 Roncesvalles Ave., Saturday, September 24.

In John's memory, "Mercy in the City" -- two lectures by the noted Catholic artist and author Michael O'Brien will be given at Regis College, Queen's Park Circle and at STM, 263 Roncesvalles Ave. TORONTO, on November 17 and 18.  Check this site for details.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Pope Francis will celebrate Mass for the repose of the soul of Fr Jacques Hamel, the French priest killed by two Islamist terrorists in July.

Pope Francis plans to  celebrate Mass for the 85-year-old French priest was killed by two Islamists while celebrating Mass. The murder took place on July 26 in the church of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray as Fr Hamel, 85, was celebrating Mass.
According to Rome Reports, the Mass for Fr Hamel will be held on the morning of September 14 at 7am, in the chapel of Casa Santa Marta, the Pope’s residence.
The bishop and 80 pilgrims from the Diocese of Rouen, where Fr Hamel lived and worked, will be in attendance.

Christoph Schönborn's Warning

Viennese Cardinal Christoph Schönborn warned this week at a Mass for the Feast of the Holy Name of Mary that "Europe is well on the way to forfeiting its Christian heritage". 

"Will there be an Islamic conquest of Europe? Many Muslims want that and say: Europe is at the end," he said during the Mass in St. Stephen's Cathedral during a celebration for the Feast of the "Holy Name of Mary." 

This feast was introduced in gratitude for the liberation of Vienna from Ottoman Muslim forces which were attacking Europe 333 years ago. 

"God have mercy on Europe and with thy people, who are in danger of forfeiting our Christian heritage," Schoenborn said in his homily, according to the website of the Archdiocese of Vienna. This loss could be felt, "not only economically, but above all, in human and religious terms," preached the cardinal.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The inimitable Fr. Hunwicke on his always enlightening blog " Mutual Enrichment" offers some very useful thoughts for those who ask about the limits and the possibilities of bible study and textual criticism.  Alluding to he Last Gospel which may be the most studied and read passage in the bible, he says:

"Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the Flesh, nor of the will of Man, but of God. 

So the Johannine prologue, the Christmas Gospel in the Missa in Die, the wonderful pericope which we read day after day at the end of Mass, describes those who have 'received' Him. By Baptism, we have that New Birth which is of God and not of human begetting.

But there is a very early variant reading in some witnesses to the text of S John: Who was born .... In other words, the sentence is made to refer to the Lord Himself and to His Virginal Conception. It fits rather well, doesn't it?

The scholarly consensus has always been that the text as usually translated is the correct one. Frankly, I've never been completely sure about that. (My old mentor in the science art of Textual Criticism, the immortal Professor G D Kilpatrick, was once prepared to accept the reading of a single Armenian ms contra mundum, so determined was his 'eclecticism'.) 

The old 'Westcott and Hort' Victorian certainty, the superstition of 'the best manuscript' -  the idea that if only we had sufficient evidence ('O God, please give us some fantastic First Century Papyri!') we would be able to reconstruct the authorial original that came hot from the pen of S John -  represents an attitude to Textual Criticism which among Classicists has either been abandoned or qualified.

But, assuming that the Textus Receptus is indeed to be followed, it nevertheless remains true that S John is here deftly alluding to the Lord's Virginal Conception; and that the Fathers and scribes who produced the variant reading accurately picked up and made explicit an implication which the Evangelist intended to be perceived. He is saying 'Nudge nudge, of course we know that the Lord was born of a Virgin; but I want you to realise that your own New Birth, in Him, is just as Virginal as his temporal Conception'. 

That's the sort of way the Fourth Evangelist works. (He doesn't, for example, describe the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper, but he does give us his Chapter 6.) Could the Disciplina arcani have something to do with this? We remember the words of S Ignatius of Antioch that the Virginity of Mary and her Childbearing and the Death of the Lord  were Three Mysteries of a Cry [krauges] which were hidden from the Devil, wrought in the stillness of God (Ad Ephesios XIX 1 et vide egennethe in v. sup.).

Incorporated into Him, we are made sharers in His Divine, unfleshly, Birth "from above" (gennethentes anothen), just as we also share His Death and His Resurrection.

So we are Sons of the Father, Corde nati ex Parentis, and Enfants de Marie, just as the Lord himself was."

An opportunity for men to reflect this Fall

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

A Very Warm Welcome at St. Vincent de Paul

The Fathers of the Oratory kindly arranged for the new sign for STM and an icon of St. Thomas More which is placed at the entrance with votive candles.  After a welcome from Fr. Daniel Utrecht, the Pastor of SVDP, the icon was formally blessed.

Monday, September 5, 2016

St. Teresa of Calcutta and her detractors

William Doino Jr. offers a powerful defense of the newly proclaimed St. Teresa of Calcutta while pricking the balloons of critics like Coren and Hitchens by giving facts instead of opinions. The following is excerpted from FIRST THINGS:
. . . As with all models of beauty in life, however, there are cynics who have tried to tar Mother Teresa. In the 1990s . . . .the late Christopher Hitchens launched an aggressive attack on Mother with a documentary and book aimed to inflame:  Hell’s Angel and  The Missionary Position. These polemics didn’t reflect the truth, but did manage to fool a number of people.
The remarkable thing about  Hell’s Angel is that it purports to defend the poor against Mother Teresa’s supposed exploitation of them, while never actually interviewing any on screen. Not a single person cared for by the Missionaries speaks on camera. Was this because they had a far higher opinion of Blessed Teresa than Hitchens would permit in his film? 
Avoiding the people at the heart of Teresa’s ministry, Hitchens posed for the camera and let roll a series of  ad hominem attacks and unsubstantiated accusations, as uninformed as they were cruel. He called Muggeridge—one of the most acclaimed journalists of the twentieth century—an “old fraud and mountebank,” mocked his belief in the supernatural, and even referred to Mother Teresa as a “presumable virgin.”  
. . . Hitchens expressed shock that Teresa encouraged victims to forgive those who harmed them, causing many to wonder whether he was aware of the basic tenets of Christianity. 
The height of absurdity came when Hitchens assailed Mother Teresa for allegedly giving her heart to greater Albania, “a cause that was once smiled upon by Pope Pius IX and his friend Benito Mussolini.” It would have been hard for Pius IX to have been friends with Benito Mussolini, given that Pius died in 1878, and Mussolini was not born until 1883, but why should Hitchens be concerned about historical facts, when he was having such fun making them up? 
Despite this effort to diminish Mother Teresa’s reputation, it stands as high as ever, fifteen years after her passing. Her order and affiliates continue to expand. By 2010, notes biographer Kathryn Spink, there were over five thousand Missionary of Charity sisters, serving in 766 houses in 137 countries, and another 377 active brothers serving in sixty-eight houses in twenty-one countries. The Lay Missionaries of Charity, now twenty-five years old, are also growing, operating in fifty countries. 
The expansion of her order speaks volumes about its integrity and effectiveness, but the support and admiration it has received has proven too much for some. On March 1, three Canadian academics—Serge Larivee, Genevieve Chenard, and Carole Senechal—released a report on Mother Teresa, renewing the criticism. A  press release, darkly entitled “Mother Teresa: Anything but a Saint,” read: 
 In their article, Serge Larivee and his colleagues . . . cite a number of problems not taken into account by the Vatican in Mother Teresa’s beatification process, such as her “rather dubious way of caring for the sick, her questionable political contacts, her suspicious management of the enormous sums of money she received, and her overly dogmatic views regarding, in particular, abortion, contraception and divorce.” 
That was not all. The researchers accused Mother Teresa of running facilities with inadequate medical care while receiving quality medical care herself, said she was more in love with poverty than helping the poor, and implied she was psychologically unstable because she suffered through bouts of doubt. For good measure, they attacked the miracle that the Church has attributed to her intervention. 
After studying their report—twenty-seven pages in French—I sought out people who had known Mother Teresa, or been involved with her cause to inquire about its charges. Every single one of them told me that the Mother Teresa presented by the Canadian researchers was unrecognizable from the one they encountered, and to prove it, provided point by point rebuttals to their accusations. 
Fr. Peter Gumpel, an official at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, told me that far from overlooking criticism of Mother Teresa, the allegations were taken quite seriously, and answered: 
 There are mistakes made in even the most modern medical facilities, but whenever a correction was needed, Mother and the Missionaries showed themselves alert and open to constructive change and improvement. What many do not understand is the desperate conditions Mother Teresa constantly faced, and that her special charism was not to found or run hospitals—the Church has many who do that—but to rescue those who were given no chance of surviving, and otherwise would have died on the street. 
But it is “absolutely false,” he stressed, to claim that she rejected or neglected available medical care for those still treatable, or good palliative care for the terminally ill. “Beware of anecdotal stories circulating from disgruntled people or those with an anti-Catholic agenda,” he warned. 
Charges of financial impropriety are equally unfounded; in fact, Blessed Teresa helped raise, and spent, “enormous sums of money” on the poor, and she donated funds to the Holy See, which in turn distributed them to Catholic hospitals and other good works. Utterly bizarre was the researchers’ charge that the Vatican officials did not adequately consider her firm stands against abortion, contraception, and divorce:  of course they did—and her orthodoxy was “one of the many assets in her favor.” 
Commenting about the doubts Mother Teresa experienced, Gumpel asked, “Do not these researchers understand that periods of doubt, and even severe trials of faith, have affected some of the Church’s greatest saints—St. John of the Cross, Therese of Lisieux—and that persevering and overcoming them is considered one of the signs of sanctity?” 
As for the miracle attributed to Blessed Teresa, “There are always skeptics who question every Vatican-approved miracle, and accuse the Church of manipulating the evidence, but the Congregation’s medical board has very vigorous examination procedures, and stands by its decisions.” Against the skeptics, no fewer than five doctors declared there was “no medical explanation ” of the healing attributed to Mother Teresa. 
Fr. Leo Maasburg, an Austrian priest who was Mother Teresa’s close personal friend and spiritual advisor and the author of a  moving portrait of her, told me that the idea that Blessed Teresa loved poverty rather than poor people was “a diabolical twisting” of her actual beliefs, which were “to help the poor and suffering to the utmost.” Despite her travels (undertaken purely to spread her charitable activities), Mother Teresa lived an extremely modest life in Calcutta, and Fr. Maasburg was emphatic that she never asked for special favors or medical care—a fact since  confirmed by others close to her, including  the physicians who treated her during her final illness. 
Fr. Maasburg also stressed that Blessed Teresa was the first to acknowledge her imperfections, and would constantly teach those around her: “If someone criticizes you, first ask yourself, is it right? If he is right, apologize and change, and the issue is resolved. If he is not right, clarify and correct, but if that does not work, take up the unjust accusations with both hands and offer it to Jesus in union with his suffering, because he was slandered by all sides.” 
The most powerful witness I spoke to was Susan Conroy, who worked with Mother Teresa in Calcutta—traveling there as a twenty-one-year-old volunteer in 1986. She knew Mother for the last decade of her life, and wrote  Mother Teresa’s Lessons of Love and Secrets of Sanctity.  She speaks about Blessed Teresa  often. She read the report by the Canadian academics in its original French, and reacted with sadness, offering this first-hand testimonial in response: 
 When I read the criticisms of how the patients were cared for in the Home for the Dying, I kept thinking back to my personal experiences there . . . . I know how tenderly and carefully we tended to each of the destitute patients there—how we bathed them, and washed their beds, and fed them and gave them medicine. I know how the entire shelter was thoroughly and regularly cleaned from top to bottom, and each patient was bathed as often as necessary, even if it was multiple times a day . . . . 

They were considered “untouchables” of society, and yet there we were touching and caring for them as if they were royalty. We truly felt honored to serve them as best we could. Mother Teresa had taught us to care for each one with all the humility, respect, tenderness and love with which we would touch and serve Jesus Christ Himself—reminding us that “whatsoever we do to the least of our brothers,” we do unto Him. 
After hearing from these supporters, I requested interviews with the researchers, and finally obtained one with Dr. Chenard. Her answers to my series of questions were both astonishing and revealing: She confirmed for me that her academic team did not speak to a single patient, medical analyst, associate, or worker of Mother Teresa’s before writing their paper against her; nor did they examine how all her finances were spent; nor did they speak with anyone at the Vatican involved with her sainthood cause, or consult the Vatican’s medical board which certified the miracle attributed to Blessed Teresa. The researchers had not even traveled to Calcutta, whereas even Hitchens, misguided as he was, at least did that. 
As it turned out, this “research paper” was nothing but a “review of literature,” a repacking of what others had already written, with the academics putting their own negative spin on it. In other words, an indictment based upon no original research, and the author most frequently cited? Christopher Hitchens. Yet these “findings” made international headlines, and were repeated by many without objection. 
Sanctity cannot be fabricated, and true holiness often invites worldly ridicule, as Our Lord foretold. But Blessed Mother Teresa’s radiant witness will survive as long as truth and tenderness survive in the human heart—which, God willing, will be until the end of time. 
William Doino Jr.  writes often about religion, history and politics. He contributed an extensive bibliography of works on Pius XII to  The Pius War: Responses to the Critics of Pius XII .  

Friday, August 19, 2016

Patriarch of Antioch castigates Canada and the West for abandoning Christians in the Middle East

Ignatius Youssef III Younan, Patriarch of Antioch and all the East of the Syriacs, i.e. the head of the Syrian Catholic Church spoke this month in Toronto.  The Patriarch rebuked the West over its “stunning” indifference to the genocide of Christians in the Middle East.

Eighty per cent of Iraq’s Christian population has died, fled, become refugees or, more recently, been killed by Islamic terrorists since 2003. 

 Since the outbreak of Syria’s civil war in 2011, more than half that country’s Christians have been killed or exiled.  Iraq and Syria together had about three million Christians in 2000. Today, more than two million of them are either dead, internally displaced, living destitute in refugee camps or trying to rebuild lives abroad.

 The Patriarch deplored this slaughter of Christian civilians and clergy, the desecration or destruction of more than 140 ancient churches and monasteries, the unknown fate of two archbishops kidnapped three years ago and the ongoing use of civilians as human shields.

As the world watches, radical Islam spreads. The decimation of Christians and other minorities remains fundamental to Islamic radicalism. It is a genocide.

The Patriarch warned that the devastation will continue for as long as the West is willing to “betray its own principles and abandon Christians and other minorities.”
The US and Canadian see-no-evil relationship with Saudi Arabia and some other Islamic nations is at the root of the problem, he insisted. Financing and arming of international Islamic groups has, predictably, produced terrorists, the Patriarch said.

Western complacency and greed, and the abandonment of Christian principles in order to keep Mideast oil flowing is a principal cause of this problem.  Our brother and sister Christians will continue to suffer as long as this selfishness pervades the leadership of Europe and North America.

Western Governments are largely economic opportunists and pander to Middle Eastern regimes which have no interest in retaining Christianity’s 2,000-year presence in the region.  The leadership of the Federal Government in Canada along with other leaders remain silent and inactive as Christian and other communities face annihilation.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Europe and the deficit of faith

Explanations have been offered for the Brexit vote that stunned the world’s opinion-makers. George Weigel offers his thoughts at FIRST THINGS.  He suggests that explanations in the press are missing something.

The conventional wisdom, Weigel says, refers to: a perceived loss of national sovereignty to a transnational organization; concerns over current EU immigration policy and the effect of open EU borders on jobs and the rule of law; frustrations with petty bureaucratic regulation by EU mandarins in Brussels. Together, these amount to what’s often called the EU’s “democracy deficit” . . .

Weigel comments:

“I’d like to suggest another, perhaps deeper, answer to the question of the EU’s current distress, though: To put it bluntly, the “democracy deficit” is a reflection of Europe’s “God-deficit.” Let me connect the dots.

The founding fathers of today’s European Union—which began as the European Coal and Steel Community before morphing into the European Common Market and then the EU—were, in the main, Catholics: Italy’s Alcide de Gasperi, West Germany’s Konrad Adenauer, France’s Robert Schumann. Appalled by the self-destruction that Europe had wrought in two world wars, they sought an answer to aggressive nationalism in economic partnerships that would bind the West Franks (the French) to the East Franks (the Germans) so that war between them would be inconceivable. It was a practical idea, it worked, and it was understood to be the first step toward forms of political partnership and integration.

The wager underlying this project, as these men conceived it, was that there was enough of Christian or biblical culture left in Europe to sustain democratic pluralism in a “union” of sovereign states that would respect national and regional distinctiveness. And that Christian or biblical “remainder” involved the Catholic social-ethical principle of “subsidiarity”: the idea that decision-making should be left at the lowest possible local level (as in classic American federalism, where local governments do some things, state governments do other things, and the national government does things that local and state governments can’t do).

“Subsidiarity” is a check against the tendency of all modern states to concentrate power at the center—which explains why the principle was first articulated by Pope Pius XI in 1931, as the shadow of totalitarianism lengthened across Europe. Respect for the social-ethical principle of “subsidiarity” also implies respect for cultural difference. And that, in turn, assumes that human beings arrive at universal commitments—such as respect for basic human rights—through particular experiences, not through generalized abstractions. Or as Polish editor Jerzy Turowicz said to me twenty-five years ago, John Paul II was a “European” because he was a Cracovian, the heir of a particular experience of pluralism and tolerance, not despite the fact that he came from that unique cultural milieu.

When biblical religion collapsed, as it manifestly has in most of Old Europe and too much of New Europe after 1989, commitments to subsidiarity and its respect for difference imploded as well. The vacuum was then filled by a monochromatic, anti-pluralist notion of “democracy”. Embodied in EU law and enforced by unaccountable bureaucrats and EU courts, the results of this decayed democratic idea went far beyond idiotic regulations on the shape of tomatoes and bananas to include a concerted attempt to impose a single political culture in Europe, best described as the culture of personal autonomy—the Culture of the Self. That pseudo-culture is the hollowed-out shell of the Christian personalism that once inspired de Gasperi, Adenauer, Schumann, and the mid-20th-century Christian Democratic parties of Europe. And its political by-product is the EU’s “democracy deficit.”

Forty years ago, German constitutional scholar Ernst-Friedrich Boeckenfoerde argued that the modern liberal-democratic state faced a dilemma: It rested on the foundation of moral-cultural premises—social capital—that it could not itself generate. Put another way, it takes a certain kind of people, formed by a certain kind of culture to live certain virtues, to keep liberal democracy from decaying into new forms of authoritarianism—more pungently described in 2005 by a distinguished European intellectual, Joseph Ratzinger, as a “dictatorship of relativism.” The Boeckenfoerde Dilemma is on full display in the European Union, which is in deep trouble because of a democracy deficit that is, at bottom, a subsidiarity-deficit caused by a God-deficit.

Americans [and Canadians] would be very foolish to think ourselves immune to a similar crisis of political culture."

George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington, D. C.’s Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies.