If you are looking for daily religious contemplation and inspiration, you should definitely subscribe to the YouTube channel of the Office of Vocations at the Archdiocese of Toronto. There you will find daily video reflections featuring a rotation of priests.
The video for Wednesday, September 23, 2020 features Fr. Favin Alemao, who is currently studying at the Pontificio Collegio Canadese in Rome, reflecting on the work of St. Padre Pio.
Fr. Favin reminds us that some of the Churches greatest missionaries were people who hardly ever left their hometowns. He asks us to reflect on how we could become a good instrument in God’s hands, like Padre Pio.
To watch Fr. Favin’s reflection, please click the image below.
Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, has announced the institution of Stewardship Sunday across the archdiocese on the 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time. The first Stewardship Sunday will take place on September 20, 2020. To mark the occasion, Cardinal Collins, authored the below homily on stewardship (which is also available in a video format below).
One person I am always amazed with in history is Lorenzo Medici, the great Italian ruler of the Renaissance. He went down in history as Lorenzo il Magnifico, Lorenzo the Magnificent. Would not that be a nice nickname to have down through history? The Magnificent! He was called this because he was generous in everything he did. He never just simply went for the minimum; he always gave the very best. He did not just dip his toe in the sea of life, but dived right in. And so, he was known as the Magnificent.
Now an Italian ruler of the Renaissance is perhaps not so important to us in our own life but, I think, that spirit of absolute generosity, abundance and magnificence is something that we need to reflect upon in our life in Christ. In fact, that is basically a reflection of the Lord God himself because God does not measure out His mercy to us in little tiny amounts. God always acts with superabundant generosity, with magnificence, in the way in which He gives to us the grace in our lives, and the blessings with which we are surrounded. We see in that generosity of the Lord God himself a model for us, an invitation for us, and a command that we are to go and do likewise.
We see this in the Gospel of today’s Mass (Mat 20:1-16a). There we have the landowner who hires people to work in his vineyard. The first who are hired, early in the morning, are given the fair amount for a day’s work. Then he calls others to work at different times throughout the day, and finally at the eleventh hour, just before the working day ends, he calls still more. Those who are called last have only worked about an hour, but receive a full day’s wage. Now if you look at things in a narrow-minded way you can sympathize with the people who were hired at the beginning of the day. What is going on here? Did we not work through the heat of the day? Should not we get more – and yet those who worked only an hour got the same amount as we did? But the master says, no, my friend, can I not be generous with that which is mine?
In fact, what we need to do is to look at this not from the perspective of the angry first workers, but from the perspective of the generous master. If we do that, we can see that he has decided to show abundant generosity to those who have come last who did not deserve it. That is a message, partly I think, to the Gentiles who came to salvation history rather late and in God’s generosity are going to receive just as much as those who have been at it for many, many centuries. Perhaps that is part of the message.
But this parable mainly highlights the super abundant generosity of God. It is very much parallel to what we see in the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). When the younger son returns, the loving father overwhelms him with generosity and loads him with goods and things like that to celebrate, because he has returned. The angry elder brother says no, no, no – sort of like the first workers in today’s Parable – how dare you do that? That is not fair. This, your son, does not deserve it. The older brother has measured it out and his brother does not deserve what he is receiving from their father. That, of course, is correct. And yet the father replies that this, your brother, was lost and is found. And so, we see that magnificence and generosity from the hand of the Heavenly Father. It is not deserved, by any of us.
We need to appreciate that in our own lives, and recognize, as Isaiah says in the First Reading today (55:6-9), “my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.” We need to go deep in the mystery of God’s generosity and to reflect upon it. First of all, we are the receivers of it. We receive so much that we do not deserve, like the workers hired at the eleventh hour; we deserve nothing, not even life itself, and yet God gives us that in superabundance. He gives us the faith, He gives us grace, He gives us everything. He gives us time, the time that we live our life – He gives us that. He gives us everything. And so, we receive from the magnificent generosity of the Lord God.
But we are also called, as His servants, as His creatures, as the disciples of the Lord, to show to others that same spirit of magnificence, that same spirit of generosity in the use of the gifts that we have received.
We are not the Master. If we were the master we would not be as generous as the master in today’s Gospel. No, we are servants. We must imitate the generosity of our Master. We are stewards. That means we are servants who have been entrusted with the gifts received from the Master and we are called to use them well, to use them fruitfully, as in the Parable near the end of the Gospel of Matthew (25:14-30): we see that the master hands out various gifts, talents, to his servants. Some use them fruitfully, with generosity and creativity. Another one just goes and buries it in the ground. Sterile. Useless. He does not catch the spirit of the master, the creative spirit. But we are called to be “stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor 4:1), stewards of the gifts of God. They are entrusted to us by our generous Master and He calls us to use them well. Generously, creatively and fruitfully.
We should think about that especially on this Sunday which in our archdiocese is called Stewardship Sunday. It is a time when we are called to reflect upon that fundamental disposition of the disciple of Jesus – to be a grateful steward of the many gifts received from the Lord. We are all very different – some receive this gift, some another talent – we are very different in that, but we are all the same in the way we receive from the hands of the generous Master, the magnificently generous Master, so many gifts; if only we would only recognize them in ourselves and in the people around us.
Our whole community is richly blessed with gifts and often they go uncelebrated and unrecognized. So, through spiritual Stewardship we are called to recognize in others the gifts they have and to invite them to bring them forth generously, fruitfully and creatively.
We ourselves are asked to thank God for the gifts that we have received from His hand more generous even than those of the eleventh hour who received a full day’s wage for working almost nothing. We receive even more generously from our gracious Lord. And we are called then, having received these gifts, whatever they may be, to use them fruitfully and to help and invite others to do the same. So as a whole community, we are people who recognize that we are stewards of the generous, abundant, magnificent goodness of the Lord.
As we do so, here are a few things that we should think about. First of all, this disposition of stewardship is not some kind of a program we get into; it is not a thing that we do. It is a profound attitude where we are grateful for what we have received, and are profoundly committed to use these gifts fruitfully, generously and in a magnificence which mirrors that of our gracious Lord.
Secondly, I think what we need to do as we think about this, as we reflect upon our parish community, is to ask: what are the different gifts that we can see around us? If we all begin to fruitfully use these gifts, not burying them in the ground or forgetting them and not recognizing them, but drawing them forth from one and all, then our whole community will flourish and grow and reach out to the people around us who will say “see how these Christians love one another.” Look at that community, so filled with the gifts of God!
We do so also when we are conscious, as we reflect upon the Parables of the Lord, that we need to be creative, not burying the gifts but letting them flourish. And we need to help others to make their gifts flourish.
We also need to be faithful; these gifts are from God. They are not ours. We need to recognize faithfully that we are not the Master. We simply, for a brief time in this world, are given these gifts and we are called to use them well.
And we are accountable as well – the Master returns. At the end of the Parable of the Talents he returns and says, what have you done with the gifts I entrusted to you? Some used them well and one did not, but buried it away. So there comes a time at the end of our life when we come before the Lord and He will ask us: how have you made use of whatever gifts I gave you – and they are different for each one of us.
So, let us think about that on this Sunday as we reflect upon the theme of stewardship which is profoundly biblical, profoundly spiritual, deeply rooted in our faith and at the heart of the Gospel. How can we as disciples generously share with a hint of that magnificence of the Lord God Himself? How can we generously share the gifts that He has given to us? How can we make fruitful use of the time which we have in our life, of the particular talents we have received, and of the material goods that we can share with others, not clinging to them but being generous? In that way, we can be faithful and fruitful stewards of the mysteries of God. And we will, in our own life as God calls us to, reflect the glorious, generous magnificence of the love of God in this world. That is our mission and if we do that we will be faithful to Him.
May the Lord bless us all in this sacred mission: to be faithful, creative stewards of the many gifts that we have received from our good and graciously magnificent Lord God!
Fr. Matthew McCarthy is the new director of the Office of Vocations for the Archdiocese of Toronto (you may remember him as the host of "ShareMusic"). Below he shares his thoughts on vocations, discernment and why the world needs priests during these difficult days.
After reading this blog, please check out the Office of Vocation's new daily video reflections series, which can help all Catholics reflect on their faith.
1. I’m sure people would like to know about your discernment process. Can you share a bit about how you came to the priesthood?
My earliest memories of when I started to think about the priesthood were when I was about 7 or 8 years old. After receiving First Holy Communion, I became an enthusiastic altar server and faithfully served Mass every Saturday morning at St. John Fisher Parish in Brampton. At the time, my pastor, Fr. Alfred Grima, would always ask me the same question as he prepared for Mass: “So, how’s my future priest today?”
Without a doubt, these times were when the first seed of the priesthood were planted in my mind.
But then middle school and high school happened – when sports, music, girls and Pokemon cards took rather prominent positions in my life – and thoughts of the priesthood started to fade. However, they resurfaced during my university years, when the two priest who were chaplains of my Catholic students group instilled in me an even greater admiration for the Lord, His Church and the priesthood.
Immediately after completing my university degree, I entered Serra House, where I began seminary formation, while simultaneously completing my philosophy requirements before studying theology.
2. Why is it exciting for you, as a priest, to help others discern a call to the priesthood?
Part of the excitement is guiding individuals through a particularly blessed time in their lives, as it certainly was for me. I remember the day I made the decision to enter the seminary. It came after a lengthy period of what I would call “running away” from what I knew was an invitation from the Lord. At that time, I wasn’t deciding to become a priest (at least not yet), but to take concrete steps to discern the priesthood. In other words, I finally decided to give God His chance.
That day was a turning point in my life. Things just seemed to click and I felt a genuine peace about the direction I was about to take. My experience that day was one I’ll never forget, and I’ll often mentally revisit that moment whenever I need a spiritual boost. I’m thrilled at the thought of getting other individuals to experience such moments in their own lives.
3. What advice can you offer someone who is discerning a call to religious life?
In addition to carving out time each day for prayer and reflection, my advice for a “new discerner” is to try and make it to Mass as often as you can. If there’s anytime, anywhere on Earth where we would give ourselves the best chance at hearing the voice of the Lord, it would be where he shows up!
Go to Mass, then, asking Jesus, “Lord, what do you want to communicate to me during this Mass?” Then pay special attention to the readings, homily, prayers, antiphons, etc., with that question in the back of your mind. In my experience, God has always been faithful in answering that question – even if it’s by giving me a single take-home point from each Mass.
After a period of making this a habit, the Lord will make it clear to you, as he did for me, what the next step will be.
4. Is there something that you realize today that you wish you knew while you were discerning your call to the priesthood?
I’m convinced that whatever knowledge (either about myself or the priesthood) I had during my discernment process was precisely what the Lord wanted me to know at the time.
However, there were many times when I was tempted to doubt God’s providence and grasp at things prematurely. A spiritual director once told me, quoting from St. Faustina’s Diary, “Christ says, ‘my priests do not trust me enough!’” My advice to all future discerners is to “trust the process,” as it were, and fully and joyfully enter into the discernment process the Lord has planned for you.
5. The Archdiocese of Toronto interviewed the Ordinandi Class of 2020 in February of this year, before the COVID-19 lockdown began. In those interviews, each man was asked, “Why does the world need priests today?” How would you answer that question, given our recent difficulties with COVID-19?
I would give the same answer regardless of the circumstances. As the recently ordained priests would say: the world needs priests because the world needs Christ. If humanity is the question, Christ is the answer – in all times and circumstances.
Perhaps the recent lockdown and conditions of social isolation (as horrible as these were and continue to be) have awakened a deeper hunger for the love and fulfillment that only Christ can offer. If this is the case, then priests will be needed, since they serve as unique channels of that same love, by bringing the faithful to encounter Christ in the sacraments.
As the Cure of Ars says, “If we had not the Sacrament of Orders [and men to receive that sacrament] we should not have our Lord.”
If you want to learn more about how the Office of Vocations can assist your discernment process, please visit their website.
We learn about the effects of small decisions in the Sunday, August 30, 2020 homily from Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto.
The Christian message has frequently been unwelcomed and challenged in societies around the world. Under these circumstances, it can sometimes be appealing to bend our faith to the current thinking of our time. But as St. Paul tells us in the weekend's readings, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God" (Romans 12.1-2).
It is often easier to conform to the world around us, but Cardinal Collins reminds us that unless we are transformed by God's grace, we will not transform this world as Christians.
Cardinal Collins concludes his homily by offering some tips on how to choose wisely when faced with difficult decisions.
To watch video of Cardinal Collins' homily, please click the image below.
In the Sunday, August 16, 2020 Gospel reading, we heard the story of the Canaanite woman who came to Jesus to beg that him to help her daughter who was being tormented by a demon.
Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, used this Gospel reading to reflect on the gathered and the scattered: those who are practicing Catholics and those who do not know the truth of God’s love. Cardinal Collins reflected on how we can better serve the gathered and the scattered despite the difficulties of being a Christian in our currently society.
To watch Cardinal Collins’ homily, please click the image below.
Michael and Michelle Dizon are parishioners of the Archdiocese of Toronto. They are the parents of three young boys (with another child soon to be born). They share their experiences building a domestic church in their home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. During COVID-19 the term “Domestic Church” has come into the spotlight for many Catholic families. What has this term meant for your family before and during this pandemic?
Before the pandemic, it meant introducing our children to Jesus and God. We wanted to instill the fact that God is loving and that Jesus is His Son and our brother. We would do this by reading one of many simplified Bible stories written for the catechesis of kids before bed. Or we would show this in the way we helped each other with household chores or asked for forgiveness (or forgave others) in times of conflict, which demonstrated how to feel God’s presence.
During the pandemic, we were disheartened knowing we couldn’t physically attend Mass and receive Jesus. But the blessing that came from that was being able to engage in Mass “up, close and personal” through livestreamed Masses, which was especially joyous for the younger ones who normally couldn't really see what was going on at the altar. It gave them more of an understanding of what really goes on during Mass.
Daily, it has gotten all of us to follow our own rituals together: morning offerings, grace before meals and evening prayers (which is now including the “Act of Contrition”).
PHOTO CREDIT: ©2020 mddphotography Michael Dave Dizon
2. What opportunities were revealed to you, as parents, about passing faith onto your children?
With young kids (3, 5 and 8 years old), we have to find ways for the messages and understanding of our faith to be simple and comprehensive. Actually, when we were watching one of the "Star Wars" movies and a character was healing another, our youngest said: “Just like Jesus!” We took that as God telling us that we’re certainly doing well at our job as parents and faith-teachers.
We have found that our children are always asking us questions about our faith, such as:
We feel that even though some of our kids’ questions can be challenging to explain, it is great to know that they can come to us with their questions.
They also know that having lost three baby siblings (Benjamin, Micah and Emma), they acknowledge them still as their brothers and sisters who are saints in Heaven. So, they are included in our litany during evening prayers.
3. What has been your greatest joy and greatest challenge at home with your family these past several months?
Greatest joy - [Michael] Not having to commute to work means more time with the family after the computer is shut off. This also means more opportunities to grow together as a family (through thick and thin).
Greatest challenges - Being restricted at home with the same day-to-day schedule has made us be creative and find something “new” in order to alleviate our boys’ boredom.
Another challenge has been balancing screen time when some of our usual activities have been restricted. We understand everyone is in the same situation. We just do our best and hope it will eventually be weaned from the boys' daily routine.
[Michelle] Being pregnant throughout this self-isolating duration, back pain has limited the amount of activity I am able to do with these three active boys.
4. What are some positive changes that you’ve seen in your family’s faith life that you hope to continue after COVID-19?
More time talking as a couple. During the last several months we have been able to access a variety of faith-based conferences, including "Joyfully Ever After" a Catholic Marriage Summit where we watched talks from various married couples. It was nice to have had this opportunity to sit together and watch and reflect on them afterwards.
One blessing that came out of COVID-19, was that every week our family joined a Zoom meeting with five other families to pray the rosary for the end of COVID-19 and for each family's personal intentions. It has been a pleasure to see our eldest son lead a decade of the rosary (and some of the children from the other families have done so too). We hope that when the pandemic has ended, we can continue to foster this comforting practice of saying the rosary together as a family.
5. How has the churches re-opening with limited capacity impacted your family?
While we haven't been able to take our sons to Mass (just yet), we have taken turns going to separate Masses each weekend. It would be great to go together as a family, yet our current arrangement has enabled us to have some quiet time with the Lord to regroup, hear the message and prepare our hearts to receive the Eucharist. Before the pandemic, we were thinking of ideas to keep the kids well behaved during Mass. We discussed our expectations of them prior to arriving at church and had to continually remind them during Mass.
[Michelle] Due to back-pain at this stage of pregnancy, as well as limited seating, it has been easier to sit, listen and feel Jesus' presence. We will introduce the boys to Mass again in the upcoming weeks when our baby is born.
On Wednesday, August 12, 2020, starting at 7 p.m., Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, will celebrate a Mass in remembrance of those who have died.
The Annual Mass for the Faithful Departed is a long-standing tradition in the Archdiocese of Toronto. Usually these Masses are celebrated at the many Catholic cemeteries found across the archdiocese, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s Mass for the Faithful Departed will only happen at St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica.
The Mass will be livestreamed on the St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica’s website on Wednesday, August 12, starting at 7 p.m.. We hope you will virtually join us for this special Mass.
There are important lessons for us in the stories of King Solomon, St. Thomas More and “Indiana Jones,” according to Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto.
These lives and stories show us the need for a discerning mind and an understanding heart to guide us through this life and onto the next. During his homily on Sunday, July 26, 2020, Cardinal Collins explained why these qualities are so necessary in our world today and how we can achieve them.
You can watch that homily by clicking on the image below.
The complete 13th season of Lectio Divina with Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, is now available online.
Lectio Divina is a 2,000 year old spiritual tradition where Christians prayerfully and attentively read Scripture in the hopes of getting closer to God. It is different than Bible study, where one interprets and analyzes Scripture. Rather Lectio Divina is about letting the Word of God into our hearts as much as into our heads.
Cardinal Collins shares his thoughts on 10 Bible verses under this year’s theme, “Men and Women of the Old Testament.” You can watch all the 2019-2020 Lectio Divina sessions here.
Since 1984, Aid to Women has provided counselling services and material support to women with crisis pregnancies. The agency's work changed in March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic reached Toronto. Below, executive director Mary Helen Moes shares with us how Aid to Women is continuing to serve women amidst the ongoing pandemic.
1. What has been happening with Aid to Women over the past year?
In the last year, Aid to Women has been helping more women facing crisis pregnancies than ever before. Sadly, we have experienced a heart breaking increase in the number of women contacting us. Our numbers have doubled and, in some months, we’ve tripled our outreach. We are finding that women are considering aborting their child, even when they would like to keep their baby, because of a lack of support.
We’ve been able to provide them with professional counselling and the material needs of their baby, not just during their pregnancy and childbirth, but until their little one is two years old.
Our level of help seems unbelievable to them. Yet we continue to hone our skills everyday so woman in crisis will trust that we will deliver on our promise to them.
2. Tell us about Aid to Women and how it’s coping during COVID-19.
COVID-19 changed everything. But we are small enough that we can pivot and change quickly.
Our protocols changed rapidly from meeting the women at a distance, to by appointment only meetings (no walk-ins), to meeting by Zoom or phone only. It is harder to establish trust when you are not meeting in person. Yet women in need are still connecting with us. And because of that, some of the women we serve have already had their babies and there are more babies on the way!
We had to change how we serve those who have already given birth. We make a strong commitment while these woman are still pregnant that we will support them until their child is two years old. We do not take our commitments lightly. These women are our priority.
We found delivering goods to the mothers was a problem at first. Most of our volunteer drivers are over the age of 50 and were not comfortable entering large apartment buildings. We took that concern to heart and to mitigate the risks, we found young people who were laid off during the pandemic who were quite willing to help.
Other challenges had to be overcome. For example, it became difficult to accept donations from people's homes or to pick-up donations. Then there was not enough space to process the items (i.e. extra cleaning and safe handling). We took one of the rooms in our office and made it our COVID-19 donation room. Everything is placed in there for the recommended length of time for the virus to no longer be present on the items’ surfaces.
3. What is your greatest need during this pandemic?
Frankly, donations. We had planned four campaigns in churches throughout March and April, and our annual gala was scheduled for April. All of that came to an immediate halt because of the COVID-19 shutdown. The loss to our agency was extraordinary.
As the world came to a halt, we could not pause our work. We could not wait for the COVID-19 restrictions to be lifted. Our clients and their children need as much help as possible in these difficult times.
Thankfully, we shifted quickly. We held an online art auction by asking people to stay home, create, paint and donate. We had over 30 artists from Babies to Bishops donate their stay-at-home creations and our tiny online auction made some much needed dollars. We also had some amazing volunteers sew face masks, which we are selling for $6 - $10 each with the proceeds going to Aid to Women.
We are finding that most people are earning less now and they are also spending and donating less. We are learning quickly that fundraising success right now will not look like it did in the past. So we are pivoting to do things to support our women that we would have never dreamed of before. But if sewing masks makes money that helps us to pay our rent and buy diapers, then we are most grateful!4. Despite the office being closed to the public, what projects are Aid to Women currently working on?
Right now, I am working with perhaps the best board of directors I ever been blessed to know. These professionals are redoing our budgets, re-writing and approving policies to see us through in the short term and give us direction for the future.
We are calling all our donors to check-in with them and make sure they know we are still operating and need their support. Our donors play a critical role in making sure that our rent is paid and that the lights remain on, yet more important than that, we are able to do this great work that we feel called to do. More than that, we find strength in the support we are able to offer women.
Although we may not be operating exactly the same in the future, we are doing everything in our power to fulfill our commitment to serve women who are facing a crisis pregnancy. 5. What is your greatest hope for Aid to Women after this pandemic?
That we continue to save lives by connecting with one woman at a time. That we continue to listen to these women’s stories and help them through their crisis pregnancies by providing life-affirming options. That we are able to do this with full staff, in the same building and with all the bills paid.
We are passionate about serving women and saving lives every day. We do this hand-in-hand with our donors and loyal supporters. We look forward to the future with great hope, knowing that the need for our support will continue to grow.
To learn more about Aid to Women, please visit their website.