The following excerpt on how to read the Bible more effectively comes from YOUCAT's Youth Bible of the Catholic Church.
The Bible is written for you. By reading it, you can let God's word become a part of your life. The following seven rules for reading can help that to happen.
Read the Bible...
1. ...and pray.
The Bible is Sacred Scripture. Therefore it is good to pray, before reading, to ask God for his Holy Spirit and, after reading, to thank him. How can you pray? Simply start with a short prayer: "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (Ps 119:105).
2. ...and allow yourself to be surprised.
The Bible is a book full of surprises. Even though you have heard many of the stories already, give them a second chance. And yourself, too! The Bible shows you the all-surpassing breadth and greatness of God.
3. ...and be glad
The Bible is a great love story with a happy ending: death does not have a chance. Life wins. You find this Good News again and again in all passages of the Bible. Look for it -- and be glad when you have found it.
4. ...and do it regularly.
The Bible is the book for your life. If you read from it every day, even if it is only a verse or a short paragraph, you may realize that the book does you a lot of good. Just as with sports and music: you make progress only by constant practice -- and once you have acquired a few skills, it is really fun.
5. ...and do not read too much.
The Bible is a gigantic treasure. You receive it as a free gift. You do not have to unpack it all right away. Read only as much as you can take in well. If something speaks to you in a special way, write it out for yourself and learn it by heart.
6. ...and allow yourself time.
The Bible is an ancient book that is eternally young and new. It is not supposed to be read from start to finish without a break. It is good to pause as you read. That way you can reflect and become aware of what God wants to say to you. And once you have read through the Bible, just start over again from the beginning. You will again discover completely different aspects of it.
7. ...and be patient.
The Bible is a book full of profound wisdom, but occasionally it seems puzzling and strange. You will not understand everything right away. Then, too, much can be understood only in terms of the time or the historical situation. Have patience with yourself and with the Bible. When something is not clear to you, then look at the context or at other passages that deal with the same subject. Your Bible gives you a lot of support.
To read the rest of the tips, check out the YOUCAT Bible, available through Ignatius Press. For access to the Canadian daily readings, visit the Our Catholic Faith drop-down menu on the archdiocesan and parish websites within the archtoronto.org network, or click here.
The below post was originally published in the
St. Maria Goretti Parish bulletin.
Catholics are familiar with the following verse from Luke 12:15: Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Mr. Mohandas K. Gandhi also warned us when he stated that the world has enough for everyone's need, but not enough for everyone's greed. The statistics support his comments. According to a Credit Suisse report, we now live in a world where the richest one percent of the population owns more than half of the total wealth.
How did we end up this way? It was not always like this. For most of human history, we were hunter-gatherers. During this period, humans were relatively equal, each having a limited number of possessions. People only took what they needed to survive. Hoarding items was not an option because we were constantly on the move. We lived a nomadic existence.
But things changed approximately 12,000 years ago when we started domesticating plants and animals. This made our food supply more accessible and predictable. Farming enabled families to collect wealth and pass it on. The region with the first agricultural communities is known as the Fertile Crescent, a narrow strip of land between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers. The Greeks called this area Mesopotamia, which means “between the rivers”. In addition to agriculture and irrigation, technological advances in this region included the development of writing, glass, and the wheel. It should be noted, however, that the more technologically advanced a society was, the less equal it tended to be.
Cities started to form. Mesopotamian cities included Eridu, Uruk, and Ur. Early cities arose in the Indus Valley and ancient China, as well. Establishment of these urban areas further widened the gap between the rich and the poor. Large cities are places that disproportionately reward the most talented people, while fail the least skilled [World Economic Forum].
Fast-forward to today and the inequality crisis is at a tipping point. After 12,000 years of “progress”, the most recent statistics show that 82% of the wealth created in 2017 went to the richest one percent of the global population, while the 3.7 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity received nothing [Oxfam]. Clearly, this inequality is driven by greed. It is also obvious that the answer to most of the world’s problems is a fair allocation of the world's wealth.
Pope Francis summed it up as follows: “Once capital becomes an idol and guides people’s decisions, once greed for money presides over the entire socio-economic system, it ruins society, it condemns and enslaves men and women, it destroys human fraternity, it sets people against one another, and it even puts at risk our common home.”
It was St. Francis of Assisi who made made the Christmas crèche popular and turned it into a familiar part of Christian homes around the world. He presented a Bethlehem scene with live animals on Christmas Eve in 1223 in Greccio, Italy.
Here are some nativity scenes from parishes in the Archdiocese of Toronto, in no particular order.
Holy Family Parish in Whitby
St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Thornhill
St. Clare of Assisi Parish in Woodbridge
St. David's Parish in Maple
St. Clare Parish in Toronto
St. Marguerite D'Youville Parish in Brampton
Precious Blood Parish in Scarborough - outside
Precious Blood Parish in Scarborough - inside
St. Edward the Confessor Parish in Toronto
Vietnamese Martyrs Parish in Toronto
St. Mary Immaculate Parish in Richmond Hill
St. Josephine Bakhita Parish in Mississauga
Newman Centre in Toronto
*These submissions were collected between Friday, December 7 up until publication on Thursday, December 20.
At the risk of sounding a bit like my parents, Christmas is upon us again. So soon!
The pace of the days picks up at this time of year. The to-do lists get a bit longer and our tempers get a bit shorter. It is an annual irony of Advent, leading into the festivities of Christmas, that the worst character traits of our society come to light. And many of us find peaceful respite in the Mass – remembering the reason for the season, as they say.
I tend to be a back, left pew Catholic in my current parish. I attend Mass, sometimes the Vigil, sometimes the 9 a.m. Sunday Mass but most often the 11 a.m. Mass, after getting some early morning things checked off my list for the day.
It's a testament to our desire for routine, being creatures of habit, that we head for the same familiar space every time we visit our parishes. When I retake the approximate piece of pine that I have been visiting in the pews for a couple of years now, I take comfort in seeing the same faces week in and week out, and shaking the same hands, offering that peace be with them.
There is comfort in the ritual, the routine of seeing the altar from the same angle and glancing at the same stained glass window that has been beside you every week.
But I need to remember… and we all need to remember… another part of Christmas. Thankfully, by the grace of God, our churches will be full to the rafters again this year, as they have been for more than 175 years in the Archdiocese of Toronto. You shouldn't be surprised. It happens every year.
And, this is our chance to shine as Christians.
This is the time of year, when Catholics who haven't been with us regularly throughout the year and those visiting us from other places will join us. Many feel hurt or abandoned or disillusioned with the Church but they come back at Christmas. Let's welcome them warmly, with smiles and genuine friendliness. No matter where they have been throughout the year, their hearts are warm to the message of our faith when they come and we should do all we can to ensure they want to return again soon, hopefully next Sunday.
Christmas is the time we should create the most welcoming websites (so they remember where to go and at what time), the friendliest ushers (reminding us that our jackets don't need a space beside us) and the most compelling homilies of the year (so father's voice echoes in our heads, along with dancing sugar plums). This is the time when we can help people remember all the reasons they belong with us throughout the year.
This is the time when we should readily welcome the strangers among us.
And, if it means that my back, left pew is full at midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, I'll try to remember to smile at the people keeping my seat warm as I find a place to sneak into a pew beside a family's pile of coats. Then, we will all celebrate, together, the blessings we have received with the birth of Jesus Christ.
Another successful year of bright lights is nearing an end at Midland's Sainte-Marie among the Hurons.
Since 2000, both Sainte-Marie as well as Martyrs' Shrine, located across the street, have offered to the public "First Light" – a series of magical evenings guided by candlelight, which features a host of family activities, music, artisans, ice sculpting, fireworks and more.
The concept of First Light first originated with an idea from a previous General Manager of Sainte-Marie among the Hurons, who wanted to give the community a non-traditional event.
"The concept of creating an evening event built around candlelight emanated from their Moon of Wintertime program and to teach the ideas of the Huron Christmas Carol and the Indigenous story created about the crèche," said Allex Laurin, Marketing & Communications Manager at Martyrs' Shrine.
Rated a "Top 100 Event" in Ontario for nine consecutive years now, First Light is a candlelight event, open to everyone, that showcases Ontario's history and culture, thus creating important family traditions.
Since its inception, First Light has grown to become Sainte-Marie among the Hurons' signature event for the year, allowing them to accommodate over 15,000 visitors annually in the nine nights that the program is offered.
The program has a deep spiritual meaning to it.
"For people of faith, the opportunity to link this event to the light of the earth, and Christmas through an expanded visit that includes Martyrs' Shrine, offers them a chance to deepen their faith spirit alongside St. Jean de Brébeuf and his companions," Laurin said.
Families can enjoy a Christmas craft and photos with St. Nicholas in the home of the Relics, and know that the martyrs are present to support them and their family through the Christmas season as they deepen their relationship with Jesus. A glimpse inside the church of St. Joseph highlights the true meaning of Christmas with a nativity front-and-centre.
This year's presentation of "First Light" ran November 30, December 1, 2, 7, 8 and 9.
For more information on all other programs offered at Sainte-Marie among the Hurons, visit www.saintemarieamongthehurons.on.ca.
As Christmas draws closer, it's easy to get wrapped up in the giving spirit of the season. It's also worth reflecting on what we read and how we consume various forms of media in our leisure time. At St. Augustine's Seminary, four professors have written books on topics ranging from spirituality and Scripture to history and preaching. First, it's a tremendous blessing that we have four published authors within the last year on the faculty of St. Augustine's Seminary. Secondly (and more selfishly), if you're looking for a book for the Catholic bibliophile on your shopping list, below are a few ideas.
In light of the second annual World Day of the Poor on Sunday, November 18, Deacon Pat Colangelo reflects on the work of the Welcoming Arms ministry for low-income community members in Aurora – an initiative brought to life by churches of different denominations working together. 1. What is the mission of the Welcoming Arms ministry, and how did it begin?Welcoming Arms believes in the inherent dignity of all people. Reflecting Christ's love, we seek to help Aurora's residents in need to experience a fuller participation in society by providing social, economic and spiritual support. We launched in October 2006. This concept originated through a discussion between churches in Aurora. Families, individuals, unemployed and those on social assistance were looking for financial assistance to get them through the month. Church leaders believed that if resources were pooled – both from a financial and volunteer perspective – the low-income and marginalized members of our community would be better served. 2. Which churches are involved in supporting the ministry?We have six churches supporting this ministry, including: Aurora Cornerstone Church, Aurora United Church, The Campus Church, Trinity Anglican Church, Our Lady of Grace Roman Catholic Church and St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church. 3. What services and programs are offered?· Bridging the Gap: Visitors have access to toiletries, YRT (York Region Transit) tickets, grocery gift cards and referral to community agencies. Mondays and Thursdays: 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Wednesdays: 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.· Welcome Table: A community dinner welcoming more than 100 guests each week. Wednesdays: 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. · Martha's Table: A community luncheon offering a hot meal and fellowship. Thursdays: 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.· Seasonal: Free income tax preparation, Christians Against Poverty money management, Giving Garden, Christmas assistance and Christmas Dream Dinner, which provides a meal and fellowship on Christmas Day. 4. What kind of an impact have you seen on those whom you serve?I would like to share a comment made by one of our visitors:"I just wanted to express my gratitude to Welcoming Arms. And also commend you and all the volunteers/staff for what you're doing. Helping people in need! I recently just came from lunch at Martha's Table. I am full of nourishment right now. I am glad that I went. I almost didn't godue to embarrassment, I'm so glad I let go of that feeling and went in! Yesterday evening I attended Welcome Table and Bridging the Gap. I was welcomed with welcoming arms and without judgment and right now that's exactly what I needed. I'm able to keep going with my job search as having ate a decent meal it gave me the energy I so desperately was seeking…You're all angels in my eyes." 5. Anything else you want to add about being a part of this ministry?Being part of this ministry has given me the opportunity to get in touch firsthand with the reality that surrounds us. We may be living in a place where everything is available to most of us, but there are many to whom even the most basic needs are denied. This ministry has given me the opportunity to put into practice Deuteronomy 15: 7-11, which tells us, "If there is among you anyone in need…I therefore command you, open your hand to the poor and needy neighbour in your land." Through this ministry I receive more than I give.
For more information on Welcoming Arms, or to get involved, visit www.welcomingarms.ca.
Felipe Bezera is the Ontario sub-office coordinator for Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need in Canada – an organization whose mission was inspired by the commandment, "Love thy neighbour." Given the upcoming Red Wednesday event in Toronto to raise awareness and stand in solidarity with persecuted Christians around the world, Bezera shares his insights on the charity's work.
1. What is Aid to Church in Need's origin story? Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) was established in 1947 in Belgium, when its founder, Fr. Werenfried van Straaten, launched an aid initiative to help the 14 million people expelled from East Germany, while appealing for reconciliation with the "enemies of yesterday." Soon after, the movement shifted its scope to encompass the oppressed Church behind the Iron Curtain. In 1969, the current name, Aid to the Church in Need, was adopted. And in 1975, now under direct Papal authority, the head office or International Secretariat settled in Königstein, Germany. Growth continued with the creation of national offices in many Western countries and, in early 2012, the charity was elevated to the status of Pontifical Charity. ACN was established in Canada more than 30 years ago, with its first office in Montreal. It has grown to employ a full-time staff of six and one part-time employee, as well as one full-time development officer in Toronto.
2. What is the organization's mission?Our mission is to bring assistance to the Church wherever it is in need in the world by praying, informing and giving. We now operate 23 national offices in as many countries, including Canada—working in over 140 countries and supporting over 5,000, mainly pastoral, projects per year.
3. Whom does Aid to Church in Need currently serve? We are a global family of benefactors and project partners – with ACN offices bridging the two to support the Church in its work with the poor, the persecuted and the displaced. We have projects on every continent; much of our support goes to African countries, such as the Central African Republic, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. We have projects in Eastern Europe, such as in Ukraine and Bulgaria, and in South America – Venezuela, Columbia and Brazil. These are but a few of the countries where we have been active in projects involving construction, motorization, subsistence aid, Catholic media, pastoral care and humanitarian aid and programs supporting refugees. For example, we have raised a great deal of funds to help in the Nineveh reconstruction plan, an immense effort to help the Christians of Iraq return to their ancestral lands.
4. What is the most pressing issue facing Christians internationally?Religious freedom. The persecution of Christians is a global issue. Christians are the group who statistically experience the highest percentage of persecution on a global level. ACN publishes a comprehensive document called the Religious Freedom Report every two years. A new report will launch in November in conjunction with the Red Wednesday campaign, created to raise awareness of the issue around the world by floodlighting important religious structures and cultural buildings in red to highlight the persecution of Christians around the world. In Toronto, we're hosting a Red Wednesday Prayer Vigil at St. Michael's Cathedral Basilica on November 21, at 6:30 p.m.
The Colosseum, pictured above, was lit up in red last February to raise awareness of Christian persecution worldwide.
5. What inspires you to keep going in your work?We are inspired when we see the tangible results of our efforts. It is our great privilege to support the priests, consecrated persons and lay people of the Church in the poorest reaches of our planet, living out Christ's message of love, hope, faith and reconciliation. When everyone else is gone, the Church remains to care for those who are also too poor or sick or disabled to leave. When people are displaced and on the move or have to flee their homes, it is the Church that reaches out to them in the spirit that Christ taught. It is up to us to ensure they can continue to be there, bearing witness to Christ's message. For more details on Red Wednesday, please visit http://bit.ly/RedWednesday2018.
As Blessed Oscar Romero is being canonized this Sunday, October 14, we recognize that his legacy has spread far and wide from his home in El Salvador. For this reason, we are featuring local not-for-profit Romero House, whose name was inspired by this soon-to-be saint's heart for those in need.
Romero House is a haven for refugees in Toronto that provides housing, settlement and advocacy services. It started when a small group took over a refugee shelter threatened with closure, back in 1991. Twenty-seven years later, Romero House is a fixture in the city's West End – located at Bloor and Dundas Streets. Over the years, Romero House has welcomed several waves of refugees: from the Horn of Africa, from Eastern Europe after the breakup of the Soviet Union, from Iran, Columbia and Mexico.
Romero House helps refugees in need. (Photo courtesy of Romero House)
On a day-to-day basis, Romero House serves as a bridge between shelters and long-term housing for refugees. Their programs include transitional housing and walk-in services, such as help accessing food banks, settlement assistance, legal aid, education, clothing and finding lawyers.
Their four houses are divided into 10 units where families can live until their refugee hearings – most of these families spend the first year of their new life in Canada living at Romero House. Staff members provide a variety of programs for families, including a Kids' Club and Women's Group, retreats throughout the year, and a summer camp.
One of the non-profit's most unique features is that their staff live in their houses, alongside the newcomers. The organization's origin story asserts that "at the heart of Romero House is a fundamental decision to say 'I trust you' by choosing not to lock our internal doors."
Their current structure exemplifies a heart of service. Much of the work at Romero House is done by a team of interns, who choose to spend a year living in community, assisting the residents.
Before his assassination in 1980, Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador in El Salvador, spoke out against injustice, poverty and torture. According to the organization's website: "He exemplified the hope for faith and justice, and the inclusivity that Romero House was to embody."
For more information on Romero House, please visit www.romerohouse.org. To follow the pilgrims from Romero House throughout their pilgrimage to Rome for the canonization,visit www.twitter.com/house_romero or https://www.instagram.com/torontoromerohouse/. The canonization ceremony will be broadcast on Salt and Light Television this Sunday, October 14 at 9:30 a.m. As well, Romero House will be hosting a viewing of the canonization at the same date and time at Bishop Marrocco/Thomas Merton Catholic Secondary School located at 1515 Bloor St. W. All are welcome.
Aid to Women has been serving women in the Greater Toronto Area since 1984. On September 26, they are celebrating their 30th anniversary with an evening reception at the Newman Centre at the University of Toronto. Below, Executive Director Mary Helen Moes shares her thoughts on the ministry's mission and vision.
1. Tell us about the ministry and work of Aid to Women.
Aid to Women (ATW) is an absolutely beautiful registered charity, located in Toronto, that moves mountains. We clear the obstacles in front of a women facing an unplanned pregnancy and offer her real solutions and caring support, as a real option to aborting her baby. Since the beginning, ATW has helped thousands of women and are committed to providing information and non-judgmental support needed for young mothers to make life-affirming decisions about their pregnancy. We believe that pregnant mothers should never feel alone. With that in mind, we then accompany the mother through birth and into the early years of parenting. We assist with needs such as counselling, accommodations, diapers, baby clothes, strollers, car seats, etc., while networking them into the community for additional services. We also offer post-abortion recovery and support. All of our services are free and confidential.
2. As Aid To Women looks back over the last 30 years, what is the organization most proud of?
Aid to Women has been serving women in the Greater Toronto Area and beyond since 1984 as the only crisis pregnancy service located beside an abortion clinic in Canada. While it is easy to say a woman should not abort her baby, it is significantly more important to do something about it. The founders of this organization knew it would be hard and did it anyway. Their dedication as volunteers is unsurpassed. They made commitments and sacrificed and it was worth it. Every mother has been profoundly grateful for the assistance of Aid to Women. And now in 2018, we have seen an over 120 per cent increase in clients. I am proud that Aid to Women has such a strong reputation that social service agencies and health care professionals are now referring women to us who are undecided on aborting their baby.
3. What has been the most challenging part of your work as Executive Director?
With every charity, there is the worry of raising enough funds to meet the budget. But here at Aid to Women, financing the increase of support we are called to give was secondary to the reality of what happens when we don't support a mother in crisis with an unplanned pregnancy. Personally, I've shed a tear a number of times, watching women walk by our office door and walk into the abortion clinic beside us. I pray, also, that I never stop being bothered by it. It propels me to switch my tears into a double effort of trying to save the babies that I can in the most creative ways possible. More than that, the women that come to our office get the best and latest information and are offered the best support. All in all, I've quickly realized that I must rely heavily on God to help me celebrate each life we save and to trust His guiding hand. If that continues to happen, we will make Aid to Women an example of what being pro-life really means. It is an honour to do this work.
4. What would you recommend and/or say to someone who wanted to support the work of Aid to Women?
Thank you. Really, thank you! Thank you for contacting us and accompanying us in this life-giving work.