Maria and Vince Luca have been married for 42 years, with four daughters and seven grandchildren. Members of the Focolare's New Family Movement, the couple reflects on their journey together in light of Marriage Sunday, taking place on Sunday, February 10. To celebrate, they'll be in attendance at the Celebration of Marriage Mass with Cardinal Collins.
1. Why did you join the Focolare Movement? During our engagement, we experienced the happiness of falling in love. We were imagining how wonderful our life together would be, always in love, having many children and not too many problems. We can still remember our first year of marriage when life together was very beautiful, however, we could see our shortcomings and the incompatibility of our personalities. We began to think that the dream of a perfect marriage might not be achieved as easily as we thought. Soon after, we met people who lived the spirituality of unity of the Focolare, and we were impressed with the way that they put the Gospel into practice. We felt called to do the same.
2. Can you describe the work of the New Family Movement?We try to live the Focolare's spirituality of unity, "That they may all be one" (John 17:21) concretely in our own families. By coming together on a regular basis, we help each other as we try to be a light to other couples. Retreat days, talks on family issues and many informal events help us to grow in our relationship with God as well as work toward the unity of the whole human family.
3. How has being a part of the lay movement impacted your relationship as a couple?
It has had a huge impact. In the early stage of our marriage, we began to meet with a group of Focolare families. Our journey together helped us to love each other more deeply, along with those with whom we came in contact. After being married for a year or two, our dream of having a large family seemed to be shattered when we found out that we would not be able to have children. When we first heard this news, it was very difficult for us but little by little, as we shared it with these very close friends, they gave us courage and we were able to see this suffering as God's will for us. However, God's love is never outdone in generosity because, soon after, we were expecting our first child and three more followed.
4. Do you have any advice for married couples? Here are some points that have helped us overcome small and, at times, big difficulties.
January 24 is the feast day of St. Francis de Sales, the patron saint of media. Below, John Paul Meenan, Assistant Professor of Theology at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College, explains the significance of this well-known saint.
Why is St. Francis de Sales known as the patron saint of the media?
St. Francis de Sales was appointed Bishop of Geneva in 1602, then the centre of Calvinism. Over the two decades of his ministry, he utilized with great effectiveness the new media of his time, the printing press, sending out untold numbers of persuasive pamphlets, books and tracts, along with his sermons. This, along with the sheer sanctity of the man, a fruit of lifelong prayer and discipline, helped convert tens of thousands of people to the fullness of Catholic truth.
How did his use of media at the time – pamphlets and books – help to effect cultural change?
St. Francis was brought up in a well-to-do noble household, and given the best education available, to which he responded with a generous and zealous soul and mind. This made him a very effective thinker and writer. His father intended him to become a magistrate, inherit his fortune and marry well, but Francis, after a spiritual struggle, consecrated his life Christ through Our Lady, determined to become a priest and save souls. Ordained in 1593, he turned many away from error by his eloquent words and arguments, which were not condemnatory, as was oft the custom at the time, but by the charity, good sense and moderation of his words – not least his Introduction to the Devout Life and Treatise on the Love of God, still immensely readable, applicable and popular to this day.
In today's world, how can Catholics use media to have a positive impact on modern culture?
The Church, especially in the Second Vatican Council, has encouraged Catholics to utilize the media to evangelize, not just with more formal and big-budget projects, such as books and films, but, especially in this connected age where everyone has access to 'media,' by all that we read, watch, write or post. At the very least, Catholics should have vigilance over what they consume, avoiding anything base or evil, itself a form of witness. But we are also called to produce works – regardless of how apparently insignificant, every article, essay, email, text and photo – that will in some way lead others to truth, goodness and beauty. Adopt the fine manners of St. Francis, who saw in each person a soul to be 'saved,' to be led gently to the fullness of truth which Christ offers. To paraphrase the good bishop: 'We attract more souls with a spoonful of honey than with a barrelful of vinegar.' With St. Francis and all the myriad of saints, we may well be surprised at what good we may accomplish.
St. Francis died on December 28, 1622, was canonized by Pope Alexander VII in 1665, and was declared a doctor of the Church by Pope Pius IX in 1877. He continues to be one of the most exemplary models for priests and bishops – as well as an excellent guide for the laity – to this day. Saint Francis, ora pro nobis (pray for us)!
The Pope's Message for the World Day of Social Communications 2019, released on the feast of St. Francis de Sales, is "We are members one of another" (Ephesians 4:25) From social network communities to the human community. To read the full text of the Pope's address, visit http://bit.ly/SocialCommunicationsMessage.
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.