Sep 29, 2011
Below you will find the homily given by Archbishop Collins at the September 22nd liturgy. Whether you're in the legal profession or not, there's words of wisdom for all of us.
I: Peace for the Restless heart
Once, when in New York City, I made a special point of going to the Frick Gallery to see the famous Holbein painting of St Thomas More. It is astonishing to come upon it suddenly as one turns the corner and enters the beautiful room where it is found, on the left side of the fireplace. There it was. But on the other side of the fireplace, staring across at Thomas More, is another portrait by Holbein of More’s nemesis: Henry VIII’s minister, Thomas Cromwell.
Both men were successful in their political careers, both were hard working, talented, and ambitious, and both were executed on the order of the King, a hazard in Henry’s court.
The guide suggested that the two works of art revealed that Holbein clearly liked More, and did not like Cromwell. That may have been true. But the more significant difference between these two men, also reflected in the paintings, is that More was a man who was inwardly at peace, while Cromwell was not.
This was evident in the way in which they prepared for their deaths. Both were naturally frightened, but while Cromwell’s last messages to Henry reveal a desperate desire to avoid his doom, Thomas More’s writings in the tower reveal a man who had long before found a deeper peace than was available to those caught up in the vicious political manoeuvring of the Tudor court. It was More whose heart was at peace, and the other powerful figures of his day are remembered now, if at all, only because of the role they played in the life of this great man of integrity.
Thomas More was a lawyer, a judge, and a politician. Over a thousand years before he lived another great saint, Saint Augustine, not a lawyer, but a master of rhetoric, which was the chief qualification of a lawyer in his day, expressed the secret of the inner peace that allowed Thomas More to escape the traps that ensnared Cromwell, and Richard Rich, and King Henry himself. Augustine writes at the beginning of his Confessions: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
All of us need to find the inner serenity that allows us to see clearly and to live rightly, with integrity, amid the turmoil of society and the inner tempests that are part of the human condition, confronting the fears that can paralyze and the vices that can destroy. But it is especially those, like Thomas More within civil society, like Augustine within the Church, who are stewards of the common good, who need to temper their ambition and their passion for achievement, and who need to master those drives within them that can rip them apart if left unchecked, by finding the secret of the heart that is at peace.
A life on the surface is untenable in the long run, especially for those who are entrusted with responsibility for others. The storms on the surface can only destroy unless a person has found the inner peace that is experienced in the midst of anxiety and suffering by one who goes deep.
The readings at today’s Mass are the ones used at every Catholic Church in the world today. The first, from the prophet Haggai, comes from a time when the people had returned from exile in Babylon. They had escaped a great disaster, and now were caught up in the busyness of rebuilding their community. They had worked hard, and the prophet remarks on how they now lived in luxurious panelled homes. But he challenges them for their selfish absorption in their own success; they were people who for all their busyness were unsatisfied: you have “sown much, and harvested little; you drink, but you never have your fill; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages earns wages to put them in a bag with holes.” The prophet calls them to get beyond the limited scope of their panelled homes and their successful material lives: to build a temple for the Lord where they can find the context of divine will and love which gives meaning to life. They will always be unsatisfied unless they look for and find the secret of a heart at peace.
In the Gospel, we see King Herod, a man who is bewitched by the illusion of control. He rules the kingdom, and almost everyone within it, but he cannot control John the Baptist, who like Thomas More speaks to the king with the serene courage of a prophet. For all his mastery of most things in his life, Herod is not at peace: he is perplexed by John, and he is perplexed by Jesus, as Henry VIII was perplexed by Thomas More, but not by Cromwell or by the other courtiers whose shallow motivations he had mastered. Herod recognizes something astonishing in those who have attained the inner depth of serenity that has escaped him. It was John and Jesus, not Herod, who left a lasting mark on their own time and on history, as it is More, not Henry, who guides us still.
Herod cannot resist the attraction of one whose heart is at peace: he says “who is this about whom I hear such things? And he kept trying to see him.” Thomas More exercised that same salutary power over Henry VIII, who loved to spend time with him, and over Erasmus, and over any who met him then, or who meet him now, and whose lives have been enriched by the encounter. The power exercised by Herod and Henry was merely destructive, and ephemeral. The power for good of a person whose heart is at peace is fruitful and permanent.
III: In Our Lives: Peace for the Restless heart
As we celebrate this Red Mass, we consider the red colour of fire that speaks of the Holy Spirit of God, whose guidance we need, and in whom we find peace for our restless hearts. And we consider the red blood of martyrdom, for those like John the Baptist and Thomas More, who were truly alive during their brief passage through this world, were willing to suffer earthly death ahead of schedule – for we all die, and the martyr simply is willing to die a bit sooner - if that were the cost of the integrity that rises from a heart that is at peace.
Whether or not we are called to die as martyrs, we are all called to live as witnesses to a heart at peace, a heart that has found its rest in God. A shallow life, swept up in vain and anxious busyness - that is not a fruitful option.
So we need to find the source of inner peace, and we especially need to do so if we are responsible for others.
A: Sabbath: a personal need
Inner turmoil is personally destructive: A restless heart needs Sabbath, to be refreshed, and to be able to discover the source of the serenity that is the foundation for a life of fruitful service.
We should all keep in mind that in the first pages of the Bible, in the instructions from our manufacturer, we find that even God takes Sabbath time. Six days of creation; one day off. That is a good proportion for us as well. Busy, busy, busy - in the six days of our busyness we can delude ourselves that our dignity and worth come from our success, or from the illusion of control that can grip our minds.
No. What I am in the sight of God, that I am indeed; no more, no less. Realization of that was the secret of Thomas More.
The faster the wheel is spinning, the more the hub must be secure. All people need Sabbath time, to stop, to look, and to listen.
More worked hard, but he spent time in prayer, and he spent time in joyful relaxation with his family and with his friends. He was truly wise, and he teaches us still.
B: We need to be at peace ourselves, if we are to bring peace to others
There is a disconcerting but sensible element in the training of pastoral counsellors. They are challenged to acknowledge and come to terms with their own inner struggles, for if they are not basically at peace with themselves, they will be of no use to those who they try to assist.
It is like the wise advice of the airline safety drill: first put on the oxygen mask yourself, before trying to help someone else.
So too, for those in any position of responsibility. There is a value if those who are responsible in some way for the whole community experience the stresses and cares of their fellow citizens. To be aloof from the struggles of the human condition is in fact impossible, and even if we try it is not wise: those who exercise authority need to know the sufferings of those they serve.
But for all of that, we need fundamentally to be at peace. If our hearts are restless, then we will not be able to be of any good to others, and our own inner struggles will be transmitted to those whom we are called to serve, and destroy our effectiveness as stewards of the common good.
This is why priests are told to get to confession frequently, and to spend at least an hour in prayer each day.
Archimedes in ancient times said: give me a place whereon to stand and I will move the world. To do good for others, we need a stable fulcrum in our lives.
This is why St Thomas More was truly effective as a lawyer, judge, and politician: he was an undivided man, at peace with God and with himself. Each day, and each week, he went deep, and devoted precious time – all the more precious for a busy person – to be attentive to the sources of life.
Thomas More spent long hours in prayer, and had a special place of prayer built at his home in Chelsea, so that he could become rooted, so that he could become anchored, so that he would have the fulcrum that made him a man at peace and an effective servant of the common good. He went out from there, no stranger to fear, as his letters and writings from prison indicate, for he was a frail human, but one who acted rightly and persevered to the end because his roots were deep.
C: The Prospect of Death is a sure remedy for a restless heart
As the old saying goes, death is God’s way of telling us to slow down. This may seem morbid, but it is not. Life is short, and it has a purpose. The more I am attentive to the limits of my brief journey through this world, the more at peace I can be within, and the more inclined I will be to weigh things rightly and to act justly towards those I meet on this earthly journey. So much of the violence, of the greed, of the enmity that destroys the frail web of community is born of a restricted vision in which people do not see how vain are the things they struggle for in this life.
As the psalmist says: “Lord, teach me the shortness of life, that I may gain wisdom of heart.”
And Samuel Johnson was right when he remarked, in an observation on the workings of the legal profession: “The prospect of being hanged in a fortnight concentrates the mind wonderfully.”
So all of us need a salutary awareness of the brevity of life, and so imitate Thomas More, whose writings are filled with references to this theme. When he was in the tower he wrote: “Give me thy grace, good Lord, to set the world at nought; to set my mind fast upon thee, and not to hang upon the blast of men’s mouths; ... to have the last thing in remembrance, to have ever afore mine eye my death that is ever at hand; to make death no stranger to me.”
Such thoughts are to be expected in prison, in one awaiting execution, but they form a significant element in the texture of Thomas More’s prayer from the days of his earthly success. As we look at the great Holbein portrait of More in his robes of state, we know what Holbein did not know, and what no one else but More’s daughter Margeret knew: that to remind him of the vanity of the baubles of this world, Thomas More, as a penitential practice, was wearing a hair shirt beneath those gorgeous robes.
He could put things in perspective; we need to as well, if we are to be at peace, as he was, and not get distracted by those things that are nothing but dust. Life is short, too short to be wasted on the anxious striving and vain delights that trapped Cromwell, and Henry, and Herod.
We need to live deeply, and to see clearly, and to live rightly, as did the great Thomas More, the man for all seasons, the man whose heart was at peace.
Sep 23, 2011
Meet Matthew Schesnuik. He's a 3 year old who attends St. Monica's Parish in Toronto. Young Matthew is a guy who enjoys his prayers - he likes to follow along at Mass and has learned the Apostles Creed, Gloria, Our Father & Hail Mary.
Matthew worked on his pronunciation of the Creed every night for many weeks before going to bed. He was asked to lend 'his voice' to a special recording of the Apostles Creed that would go along with a campaign from the Archdiocese of Toronto's Office of Development to encourage Catholics to remember the church in their Will.
The goal? To remind parishioners of the history that stands behind them and how a gift in their Will creates a lasting legacy for the next generation of Catholics. If you're interested in learning more, check out the Development Office website.
Hopefully the next generation will continue to pass on the message of hope and redemption that we don't hear as much as we should in a world that could use a little more of a "pick me up".
Two versions of the video appear in this space - above, the raw footage of Matthew (sitting beside his dad, Quentin, Manager of Planned Giving & Personal Gifts for the Archdiocese) reciting the Creed. The second (below) is Matthew's voice along with pictures bringing the Apostles Creed to life from children participating in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd in parishes across the Archdiocese of Toronto.
Thanks to ShareLife Schools Coordinator Tim Lee Loy and John Dawson of the Office of Catholic Youth for their help in putting this together.
Oh and by the way, Matthew has already decided what he wants to be when he grows up. Spiderman, a Catholic priest or a fireman. Time will tell...
Sep 22, 2011
A full itinerary is in store for the 4 day apostolic voyage, with plenty of focus on interfaith relations, with meetings scheduled with the Jewish & Muslim communities as well as dialogue with German Evangelicals and an ecumenical celebration at an Augustinian monastery in Erfurt, where Martin Luther, known as the father of the Protestant Reformation, lived for almost 15 years. If you're looking for further anaylysis of what to expect, you can read Vatican correspondent John Allen's take on how things may unfold.
See below the Vatican's official itinerary for the German visit. You can follow the Papal Visit through Salt & Light's extensive television coverage. For all the details, visit them online here.
We pray for a safe and fruitful apostolic voyage as the Holy Father return to his homeland.
22-25 SEPTEMBER 2011
Thursday, 22 September 2011
Departure by plane from Rome Ciampino Airport for Berlin
Arrival at Berlin Tegel International Airport
Official welcoming at Berlin Tegel International Airport
Welcoming ceremony at Bellevue Castle
Courtesy visit to the Federal President at Bellevue Castle
Official meeting with the Federal Chancellor at the headquarters of the German Episcopal Conference, next to the Catholic Academy
Luncheon with the Papal Entourage at the Catholic Academy
Visit to the Federal Parliament in the Reichstag Building
Meeting with representatives of the Jewish Community in a room of the Reichstag Building
Holy Mass in the Olympiastadion
Friday, 23 September 2011
7:15 Private Mass in the chapel of Apostolic Nunciature of Berlin
Meeting with representatives of the Muslim Community in the reception room of the Apostolic Nunciature of Berlin
Departure by plane from the Berlin Tegel International Airport for Erfurt
Arrival at Erfurt Airport
Visit to St. Mary's Cathedral
Meeting with representatives of the German Evangelical Church Council in the Chapter Hall of the Augustinian Convent
Ecumenical Celebration in the church of the Augustinian Convent
Luncheon with the Papal Entourage in Erfurt seminary
Departure by helicopter from Erfurt Airport for Etzelsbach
Arrival at Etzelsbach heliport
Marian Vespers at the Wallfahrtskapelle in Etzelsbach
Departure by helicopter from Etzelsbach heliport for Erfurt
Arrival at Erfurt Airport
Saturday, 24 September 2011
Holy Mass at Domplatz in Erfurt
Departure by plane from Erfurt Airport for Lahr
Arrival at Lahr Airport
Freiburg im Breisgau
Visit to the Cathedral of Freiburg im Breisgau
Greetings to the citizens at Münsterplatz
Meeting with the former Chancellor Helmut Kohl in the Seminary
Meeting with representatives of the Orthodox Churches in the Seminary Hörsaal
Meeting with seminarians at St Charles Borromeo Seminary Chapel
Meeting with the Council of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZDK) in the Seminary Hörsaal
Prayer vigil with the young people at the trade fair grounds
Sunday, 25 September 2011
Holy Mass in the touristic airport of Freiburg im Breisgau
Recitation of the Angelus Domini in the touristic airport of Freiburg im Breisgau
Luncheon with members of the German Episcopal Conference and the Papal Entourage in the Seminary
Meeting with judges of the Federal Constitutional Court in the Seminary Hörsaal
Meeting with a group of Catholics active in the Church and society in the Konzerthaus
Farewell ceremony at Lahr Airport
Departure by plane from Lahr Airport for Rome
Arrival at Rome/Ciampino Airport
Sep 15, 2011
Tues., September 20 7:30 - 9:30 pm Holy Family, Whitby
Tues., September 20 7:30 - 9:30pm St. John Vianney, Barrie
Wed., September 21 7:30 - 9:30 pm St. John Fisher, Brampton
Thurs., September 22 2:00 - 4:00 pm St. Monica's, Toronto
Mon., September 26 7:30 - 9:30 pm St. Gregory, Etobicoke
Tues., September 27 7:30 - 9:30 pm Our Lady of Grace, Aurora
Sat., October 1 10:00 - 12 noon St. Andrew Kim, North York
Sat., October 1 10:30 - 12 noon St. Margaret's, Midland (Canadian Martyrs’ Room)
Wed., October 5 7:30 - 9:30 pm Annunciation Parish, Toronto
St. Margaret Parish, Midland, 7 – 9:30 pm
St. Margaret of Scotland Parish, 10 am – 1 pm
St. John Chrysostom Parish, Newmarket, 10 am – 12:30 pm
St. Francis Xavier Parish, Mississauga, 10 am – 1 pm
St. Mary's Parish, Barrie, 10 am – 1 pm
St. Leo's Parish, Brooklin, 10 am – 1 pm
Thanks to all those clergy, parish staff and school board reps who attended the gatherings. They were filled with fruitful discussion, questions and reflection. We hope to include answers to many of the frequently asked questions from those meetings on the Roman Missal website shortly.
For parishioners, if you haven't already heard about the changes in your own parish, get ready for a healthy dose of information from your faith community as well as these pages and our website. We'll do our best to educate and inform as we journey together on this wonderful opportunity to renew our appreciation and understanding of the Eucharist.
Sep 11, 2011
The Holy Father told Archbishop Dolan, "I extend my most affectionate greetings to you, your brother bishops and all those entrusted to your pastoral care, and I gladly impart my apostolic blessing as a pledge of peace and serenity in the Lord."
The message, dated Sept. 11, was released Sept. 9 in Washington.
"The tragedy of that day is compounded by the perpetrators' claim to be acting in God's name," Pope Benedict said. "Once again, it must be unequivocally stated that no circumstances can ever justify acts of terrorism."
He added, "Every human life is precious in God's sight and no effort should be spared in the attempt to promote throughout the world a genuine respect for the inalienable rights and dignity of individuals and peoples everywhere."
Pope Benedict said, "The American people are to be commended for the courage and generosity that they showed in the rescue operations and for their resilience in moving forward with hope and confidence. It is my fervent prayer that a firm commitment to justice and a global culture of solidarity will help rid the world of the grievances that so often give rise to acts of violence and will create the conditions for greater peace and prosperity, offering a brighter and more secure future."
Sep 7, 2011
Lectio begins each month with evening prayer at 7 p.m. followed by Lectio Divina from 7:30 p.m. - approx. 8:15 p.m.
A well known passage will kick things off in September, The Road to Emmaus (Luke 24: 13-35). The rest of the 2011/2012 dates can be found here.
If you haven't experienced Lectio Divina before, it's certainly worth stopping by. You can visit our Lectio website to get more background on the tradition, which includes reading a scripture passage and then reflecting on a few lines at a time, layer by layer. Silence is a key component to the practice - "Speak Lord, your servant is listening."
No doubt many are consumed by a very busy and hectic September with plenty of activities gearing up again. In the midst of it all, Lectio Divina provides an opportunity for a period of prayer, silence and reflection. Not a bad way to kick off the "New Fall Year" or as you'll see Pope Benedict refer below to as a new "spiritual springtime"...
If you can't make it in person, Salt & Light Television broadcasts the evenings in the days following each monthly gathering. We also have an archive of evenings on our website that you can access as well either by podcast or video.
As the Holy Father, Pope Benedict said back in 2005:
"I would like in particular to recall and recommend the ancient tradition of Lectio Divina: the diligent reading of Sacred Scripture accompanied by prayer brings about that intimate dialogue in which the person reading hears God who is speaking, and in praying, responds to him with trusting openness of heart (cf. Dei Verbum, n.25) If it is effectively promoted, this practice will bring to the Church – I am convinced of it – a new spiritual springtime."
- Pope Benedict XVI , September 2005