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Around the Arch
Apr 20
What is Catholic Christian Outreach?

Benjamin Turland is a full-time missionary with Catholic Christian Outreach at Ryerson University. Below he shares about the important work of spreading the Gospel on university campuses.

1)      What is Catholic Christian Outreach and what is your mission?

Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO) is a university student movement dedicated to evangelization. We challenge students to live in the fullness of the Catholic faith with a strong emphasis on becoming leaders in the renewal of the world. We reach out on university campuses to those that don't know Jesus or don't know Him well enough. We proclaim the Gospel to them, equip them with skills to share their faith and send them out to their city, parish, home and workplace to reach out to others with this message. CCO is a non-profit organization and has 100 full-time missionaries. We serve on campuses across the country from BC to Newfoundland. 

2)     How long have you been in Toronto and where do you serve?

CCO missionaries have been in Toronto for four years. We currently serve at Ryerson University.

Ryerson Catholics outreach table

Ryerson Catholics and CCO run outreach tables to invite students into faith studies at the beginning of each semester.

3)     Why are university campuses a good place to spread the Gospel?

University is when young people are making decisions that shape the course of their lives.  university campuses contain our future leaders: mothers, fathers, doctors, nurses, politicians, teachers, journalists…. 

4)     How have you seen CCO's work impact students on campus at Ryerson?

Our work at Ryerson includes outreach and small group faith studies. In four years, we have seen the club grow to 200 students. We are constantly seeing lives changed. But more than numbers, we care about the individual encounter of faith and reaching one person at a time. One student said "I felt alone. I didn't feel like I belonged. I was lost in my faith and I didn't even know it. I first came to the [Ryerson Catholic Student Centre] house and was encouraged by a CCO missionary to join a faith study and I said I would try it out. At first, I was hesitant to join, but I just felt like it would be a nice thing to try out. It was during that faith study that I put Jesus Christ at the center of my life. That lead me to a place of peace and knowing I am loved. I finally found the love that I was looking for." This is the impact we constantly see.

Ryerson Catholics gather for Christmas party

Ryerson Catholic Campus Ministry and CCO operate out of the Ryerson Catholic Student Centre, located next to St. Michael's Cathedral.

5)      How does CCO work in partnership with existing campus ministries in Toronto?

We work in partnership with Ryerson Catholic Campus Ministry. Together we make a team of five (three CCO missionaries and two Ryerson Catholic staff). We have seen this collaboration bear amazing fruit and are grateful for what we can offer students together.

CCO staff with Ryerson Catholics staff

Ryerson Catholic Campus Ministry staff (far left and far right) and CCO staff (centre).

CCO also has partnered with the Newman Center at University of Toronto through our CCO Connect program, which is designed to help grow our efforts on campuses where CCO doesn't have an official presence.  CCO staff provide remote training and mentorship to two students who use CCO's methods and materials within their campus ministry.

CCO materials are also used at York University, U of T Scarborough and various parishes in the Archdiocese of Toronto. 

Want to learn more about CCO? Come to their Toronto "Founders' Dinner" on Wednesday, April 26 at the Columbus Event Center in North York. For more information and tickets, visit cco.ca/torontogala.  

Apr 12
Celebrating A Love That Cannot Wait

​The following reflection on the significance of the Easter Vigil is written by Fr. Michael McGourty, Pastor of St. Peter's Parish, Toronto.

For Christians, the celebration of Easter is the high point of our year of faith. We celebrate that because of Christ's resurrection, we shall not die. We are all invited to spend eternity with our loving God in Heaven. Easter is the greatest celebration of God's unconditional and undying love for each of us; a love so strong that death cannot destroy it.

The good news of Christ's resurrection and destruction of death is so overwhelmingly joyful that it sometimes overshadows another aspect of Christ's victory. Christ's resurrection does not just announce God's desire to be with us in Heaven; it also proclaims His passion to love and live with us today. The Father raised Jesus up so all people at all times and in all places could live in communion with Him and the other persons of the Holy Trinity. Easter celebrates the fact that God will not let anything stand in the way of His love for us. All that is required from us is to open our hearts to His presence.

The Easter Vigil is made up of four essential parts:

1)      The Liturgy of Light

The Easter Vigil begins with the blessing of the Easter Fire and the Paschal Candle and the singing of the Exultet, the great hymn of our Easter victory. As the Easter Candle is lit, we celebrate that Christ has destroyed the darkness of sin and death and become the light of the world. By sending the Holy Spirit to the Church as tongues of fire, the Father illumines the hearts of the baptized. We enter the Church following the Paschal Candle, which represents Christ, just as God once led His people through the desert out of slavery in Egypt with a pillar of fire. The candles that are held by the baptized testify to the gift of the Holy Spirit that we all received in baptism and to the fact that God wishes to dwell within us today and lead each of us by His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit reveals Christ as the light by which we are to guide our pilgrim journey to Heaven, testifying to the world through our Christian witness. The Paschal Candle used at the Easter Vigil is also used at baptismal and funeral liturgies to proclaim the love of our God who wishes to be with us always.


2)      The Liturgy of the Word

The Liturgy of the Word at the Easter Vigil recalls the history of salvation. While this part of the Vigil may be shortened, when the seven Old Testament readings are proclaimed, an account is given of the extent to which God will go to love and relate to all of us. Everything God has done to reveal Himself in the Old Testament has been a preparation for that final victory over all that divides us, which we celebrate at the Easter Vigil. The emphasis that is placed on God's Word reminds us how important it is that we pray and study the Scriptures in order to know God and understand how to relate to Him today. The Word is proclaimed at the Vigil and at each Mass because Jesus does not want to wait to speak to us only when we get to Heaven. He desires to speak to us today in His Word and invites us to come to Mass every Sunday to hear it proclaimed in His community, which is the Church.

3)      The Liturgy of Baptism:

At the Easter Vigil, the Church welcomes adults through the sacrament of baptism. All who are baptized share in the death and resurrection of Christ; they are freed from original sin and receive the grace of the Holy Spirit so that they may live in communion with God now and for all eternity.

The renewal of our baptismal promises at the Easter Vigil and all of the Easter Masses is a powerful reminder that we are already living in relationship with God. Every time we cross ourselves "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit," we recall the words with which we were baptized and established in a relationship of grace with the Blessed Trinity. The Holy Water at the entrance of every church reminds us it is by Baptism that we were brought into the Church and called into relationship with God.

4)      The Liturgy of the Eucharist

Nothing speaks more powerfully of God's desire to begin to spend eternity with us today than the gift of Christ's Body and Blood which He gives us at every Mass. Every Sunday, Christ invites us to celebrate His resurrection and to receive His Body and Blood so that He might share His life with us today.

God loves us now and forever. He invites us to be in relationship with Him now, to give Him a place in our lives now and to open our hearts to the transforming power of His grace now. Because He does not wait to share His love, we are invited to accept His invitation to be with Him for all eternity – not when we get to Heaven, but now. Easter is a celebration of God's offer of salvation and an invitation to respond to this offer. As the Easter Vigil shows us, we can do this by: 1) allowing His Holy Spirit to be the light by which we are guided on our pilgrim journey to heaven; 2) listening to His Word and being guided by the Scriptures; 3) living our baptismal faith in relation to God and our brothers and sisters in Christ; and 4) opening our hearts to Christ's presence in our lives today by remembering Him every Sunday at the Eucharist where He gives us His Body and Blood so that we may love others as He has loved us.

May God bless all of us this Easter with an awareness of His love today so that we might spend all eternity with Him, starting right now.

Happy Easter!

Apr 05
What is the Chrism Mass?

​On Tuesday, April 11 at 11 a.m., the archdiocesan Chrism Mass will take place at St. Michael's Cathedral Basilica (65 Bond St., Toronto). All are welcome. This is an annual Mass to bless the oil of catechumens, the oil of the infirm and holy chrism, which will be used in the administration of the sacraments throughout the archdiocese for the year. Learn more below (click on graphic to enlarge).


Here are some photos from past Chrism Masses in the Archdiocese of Toronto:

chrism procession

The Chrism Mass is a clebration of our family of faith, bringing together clergy from across the Archdiocese. 

chrism oil blessing

Blessing of the holy oils

For more photos, check out these Facebook albums:

Mar 20
ShareLife is 'Living the Gospel' in 2017 Campaign

ShareLife is more than a charitable appeal. It's how Catholics in our archdiocese can live out the Gospel by bringing the hands of Christ to those in need.

Each year, thousands of people turn for help to ShareLife's network of over 40 agencies. One such agency is Silent Voice, which is the focus of ShareLife's 2017 Parish Campaign video. In this inspiring new video, you'll learn how Silent Voice is helping the Deaf community overcome barriers every day.

For more details about this year's $13.1 million parish appeal, visit the ShareLife website.

ShareLife 2017 campaign video
Mar 17
VIDEO: 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese of Toronto

​This year, the Archdiocese of Toronto is celebrating its 175th anniversary. This two-minute video gives a quick history of the archdiocese and includes an invitation from Cardinal Collins to mark this anniversary through acts of service, in the spirit of those who have gone before us.

For more information on the 175th anniversary, visit www.archtoronto.org/175/. This site will be updated throughout the year with information on events and pilgrimage opportunities. 

We look forward to celebrating this milestone with you this year!

st. paul's basilica historic shot

Mar 14
Remembering Monsignor Vincent Foy

About 90 years ago, a young boy was told he was going to lose his mother to double pneumonia. The woman was fighting for her life at Toronto's St. Michael's Hospital after giving birth to a baby girl, the boy's sister.

He begged God to spare her life. "If my mother recovers," the boy prayed, "I will do my best to become a priest."

The woman recovered and the boy remained true to his promise; a promise that he kept a secret for the duration of his mother's life.

Monsignor Vincent Foy eventually became the longest-ordained priest in the history of the Archdiocese of Toronto. He died Monday, March 13, 2017 at the age of 101 after spending almost 78 years as a preist. 

Hearing his life story, it is clear that a long priesthood was part of God's plan. "I was near death on several occasions," Monsignor Foy admits.

In the 1940s, he contracted a case of tuberculosis that left him out of commission for over two years. He once came close to dying of pneumonia but was saved by medication administered every four hours for a week. When on vacation as a young priest, he was involved in a serious car accident but narrowly avoided hitting a tree. And he can't help but wonder what would have happened if someone hadn't have saved him and his cousin from a runaway raft while they were playing in Lake Simcoe as young boys.


Msgr. Foy as a young priest. Photo from Archives of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto.

Against all odds, he lived a long and inspiring life of service to the Church. Over the course of 78 years, he was a humble witness of faith. Having faced death a number of times, he appropriately became an advocate of life, spending his priesthood championing the pro-life cause. Monsignor Foy experienced a variety of priestly duties. A learned man with a doctorate in canon law, he spent time working in the Archdiocese of Toronto's marriage tribunal, served as Vice Chancellor, ministered to orphans and pastored several parishes.

While he was working at the Marriage Tribunal, an archbishop from Rome visited Toronto and asked for a tour of the tribunal. Years later, Archbishop Montini became Pope Paul VI. "I always said that if I had known he was going to be the pope, I would have offered him a cup of coffee!" Monsignor Foy joked.

In his free time, he learned card tricks and wrote books about magic. This hobby served as a bridge with young people he encountered in his ministry. "I remember one time at Yonge and Bloor in Toronto, there was a man who was begging for money for something to eat. I bought him a hot dog and gave him a dollar. And he said 'you look very much like a priest I knew when I was in Holy Name School. He used to do magic tricks for us!' He remembered the magic."

Through this pastoral nature, Monsignor Foy left a legacy everywhere he went. And in the midst of perfecting card tricks, meeting future popes, serving the pro-life movement and overseeing a number of roles for the chancery, his gaze always remained focused on Jesus first. His favourite part of being a priest was simple and profound: "Saying Mass is my greatest joy."


Msgr. Foy (second from left) concelebrating Mass at Cardinal Ambrozic Houses of Providence in 2016.

Monsignor Foy lived his final retirement years at the Cardinal Ambrozic Houses of Providence alongside other priests who faithfully served the Archdiocese of Toronto. In his retirement, he continued to live his number one joy: daily, he concelebrated Mass for the residents.

What began as the prayer of a child became an inspiring legacy of loving service.

May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Marlena Loughheed is a Communications Coordinator in the Archdiocese of Toronto's Office of Public Relations and Communications. A version of this story originally appeared in the 2015 edition of the Shepherds' Trust newsletter.


Feb 24
New Documentary - World Youth Day Krakow: A Pilgrimage of Mercy

World Youth Day Krakow: A Pilgrimage of Mercy is a documentary produced by the Knights of Columbus. It airs Sunday, February 26 at 9 p.m., Wednesday, March 1 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, April 9 at 8 p.m. on Salt + Light Television. Below, Fr. Jonathan Kalisch, O.P., Director of Chaplains and Spiritual Development for the Knights of Columbus and Executive Producer of the Mercy Centre at World Youth Day Krakow shares his experience of World Youth Day 2016 and how its message and spirit was captured in this film.   

1. Tell us about the Mercy Centre at Tauron Arena in Poland. What was its mission and purpose within the greater context of the World Youth Day festivities?

The Mercy Centre at the Tauron Arena in Krakow served as the international English-language catechesis and youth festival site during the Krakow World Youth Days drawing over 100,000 pilgrims from around the world.

Highlights included catechesis and Mass offered by Cardinals O'Malley (Boston), Tagle (Manila) and Dolan (New York); the opportunity to venerate the first-class relics of Saints John Paul II, Faustina, Bro. Albert Chmielowski, Maximilian Kolbe, and Bl. Jerszy Popieluszko; School of Mercy lunchtime breakout sessions; a panel on the Persecuted Church; and the Night of Mercy with a Eucharistic Procession around the arena, preaching by Bishop Robert Barron, and music by Matt Maher and Audrey Assad.

The experience of Krakow as the city of saints meant that pilgrims, walking on the same streets and praying in the same churches where a young Karol Wojtyla walked and prayed, would be reminded of the gift of mercy that is the purpose or vocation of one's life. Following Pope Francis' invitation to "be protagonists of mercy and service," the mission of the Mercy Centre was that pilgrims would come to know the Mercy of God - as revealed on the Cross and witnessed to by the saints of Poland – and therefore make a sincere gift of self and live in true freedom as a disciple of Christ. This witness and testimony was given in word, song, and performance at the Mercy Centre by priests, religious, married couples and young adults.

2. What was your role at the Mercy Centre and how did you get involved?

After graduating from college, I spent a year living and working in Poland. I encountered God's merciful invitation to become a Dominican priest while praying at the tombs of the saints of Krakow as a 23 year-old. Later, as a college chaplain, I led student pilgrimages to Krakow in the footsteps of Saint John Paul II. In hindsight, it seems providential that I was asked to serve as the Executive Director overseeing the partnership and collaboration of the Knights of Columbus with the Sisters of Life, Salt + Light Media and over twenty other organizations. Cardinal Dziwisz (Archbishop Emeritus of Krakow) invited the Knights of Columbus to organize the Mercy Centre due to our past efforts in running similar efforts at WYD Sydney and Madrid, and because of the presence of the K of C in Poland, where we have over 4,000 members.


Fr. Jonathan Kalisch, O.P. (center) with Cardinal Tagle and friends at the Mercy Centre, Krakow.

3. What was the most powerful or beautiful moment for you during the events that took place at the Mercy Centre this summer?

We wanted to highlight the witness of the suffering church in the Middle East. Many people advised us that there would not be sufficient interest on the part of young people to showcase the plight of our persecuted brothers and sisters from the main stage of the Tauron Arena. However, as seen in the documentary, when the panel on religious freedom began from the main stage, just after Pope Francis' plane had landed in Poland, the Mercy Centre was packed. When the moderator introduced Archbishop Bashar Warda of Irbil, Iraq, he was given a standing ovation by over 15,000 youth who were present to hear his witness.

On another occasion, a young woman who was a refugee from Iraq shared her testimony of overcoming persecution and learning to forgive through her own encounter with mercy. When she prays the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, she has been given the ability to say: "have mercy on ISIS, and on the whole world."

Finally, during the Night of Mercy, Bishop Robert Barron preached about the power of the cross to overcome evil, violence, and hatred through love. After the Eucharistic procession, and as Matt Maher led the gathered pilgrims in a concert of joy, a young woman waving an Iraqi flag handed me a card that read: "We are N and we are praying for you."

4. Why do you think it's important to capture the spirit of the Mercy Centre in video as was achieved in World Youth Day Krakow: A Pilgrimage of Mercy?

All important events are worthy of preservation. World Youth Day Krakow was the largest single gathering of the Body of Christ during the Jubilee Year of Mercy. It took place on the same streets and churches where the history of the twentieth century left an indelible mark. John Paul II in his last book, Memory and Identity, wrote that Divine Mercy is God's answer to the evils of the Auschwitz concentration camp and the horrors of Soviet communism. "The limit to evil is Divine Mercy."

For over two million young adults who attended World Youth Day, the first part of their pilgrimage was coming to Krakow to encounter the Lord of Mercy and verify His truth in their lives. Pope Francis reminded us in Krakow, that: "When Jesus touches a young person's heart, he or she becomes capable of truly great things." We are talking not just about an important event but about a breakthrough, of groundbreaking moments – that give their lives new meaning and dimension - for almost everyone who was present in Krakow during these days.

Our goal as organizers, was to prepare a spiritual space or sphere of freedom – so that each pilgrim could find answers to the most important questions in their lives. The second part of any pilgrimage is the return during which the pilgrim is called to testify to what she/he saw and witnessed, and to verify the presence of the encounter with Mercy to those who could not go or who prayed and supported them. Our documentary World Youth Day Krakow: A Pilgrimage of Mercy is one way for pilgrims to share the fruits of their personal encounter in Krakow with others.

5. Who should watch this documentary?

Everyone can be inspired by this documentary, because as Pope Francis said, "Mercy always has a youthful face!" Those pilgrims who had the opportunity to be at World Youth Day now receive a postcard from the past, a great souvenir - not in the form of a photographic image, which can collect dust on a shelf - but rather in the form of a digital notepad with experiences and the teachings of mercy, fraternity, and community.

Besides showing the pilgrim experience, we also showcase the message that Pope Francis and the Church wanted the world to learn about in Krakow, including solidarity with the persecuted church, forgiveness, the Night of Mercy, and the power of the Cross.

The documentary is great for viewing by youth and young adult groups. For those who were not in Krakow or perhaps have never participated in World Youth Day, they will see the phenomenon of millions of youth witnessing their love Christ and His Church. We do not realize on a daily basis how large the young Church is, and our documentary is evidence that the Church is alive with hope for the future.


Fr. Jonathan Kalisch, O.P. with World Youth Day pilgrims in Poland, summer 2016.

6. What is your greatest hope for those who visited the Mercy Centre or who benefitted from its events through video?

To know that they are not alone. John Paul II's first visit to Poland in 1979 sparked the nonviolent solidarity revolution that led to the eventual overthrow of communism by the simple fact that people who were held under oppression could look around and see how many thousands of people believed in God and wanted something more. They could be counted. He later founded the World Youth Days to inspire solidarity among the youth of the Church against the prevailing sense of moral relativism, indifferentism, and the spirit of the world. At the Campus Misericordiae in Krakow, Pope Francis similarly challenged the young people "to trade in the sofa for a pair of walking shoes and…to blaze trails that open up new horizons capable of spreading joy."

We have heard from many pilgrims whose lives have been transformed by WYD and the Mercy Centre. It is our hope that those who watch the film will be open to the graces of mercy that the pilgrims received, and that God who loves to exceed our expectations, will surprise all of us! So we invite the viewers to join us on a spiritual pilgrimage to Krakow. And to be open to the new dimensions of mercy it may open in their lives.

7. What is your experience of mercy and why do you think young people today should seek Divine Mercy?

Mercy is the greatest gift of God – and by gift we must underline that it can never be earned, never 'deserved' - but is freely given by God to all who humbly seek it. It also costs. We must never forget that the 'price' of mercy was the life of the Son of God. And therefore it can never be possessed but always must be freely given away.  As a priest, there is no more humbling moment than to say the words of sacramental absolution, giving the eternal gift of freedom from sin, all the while being a sinner oneself. To know that God Himself will not ask the penitent about the sins she/he has confessed at their final judgment is truly stunning.

Yet, mercy remains a dimension which our world continuously needs. We do not always realize this, but at times we fail to 'use' mercy. I mean not only that we are not merciful, do not show mercy, but also that we sometimes do not accept mercy from God or others. Sometimes young people suffer for a long time, even though God has already forgiven them through the sacrament of confession. Many young people are wounded and refuse to believe that they are worthy of God's love and His mercy. That's why we can never cease to proclaim the message of hope that mercy is always available, and as our Lord Jesus said to St. Faustina, that an "inestimable treasure of grace" awaits all those who simply seek out this gift of mercy in the sacraments. We must speak of His infinite love for each of us and of the sensitive gaze, which He has for me even when I fall. It is a reality that awaits every person. And this is precisely the good news of salvation which must be proclaimed to the world.


Fr. Jonathan Kalisch, O.P. and Fr. John Rozembajgier at WYD Poland

Feb 14
Losing Your Head in Love: Celebrating St. Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day: the holiday that tries to warm our hearts in the middle of frigid February. With it comes a feel-good message of love and a lot of heart-shaped sugary treats. And, of course, Cupid sporting his signature diaper and quiver of arrows.



Popular Valentine's Day imagery. Image from here.

Celebrating the Feast of St. Valentine has become more about chocolate and rhyming Hallmark greetings than was originally intended. How did the martyr St. Valentine become a match-making stereotype? We did some digging to find out more about this saint, whose feast has fallen victim to a somewhat misguided societal interpretation.

Alas, it seems his life is primarily one of mystery. Perhaps that is why he became associated with love and its often mysterious nature?

Not quite.

It appears St. Valentine is in fact a “composite character” of two saints of the same name. Some accounts say he was a Roman priest martyred around 270 A.D. for refusing to renounce his faith. At the time, Christians were persecuted under the rule of Claudius II. St. Valentine was imprisoned after being caught marrying Christian couples. He was even gutsy enough to try and convert the emperor. His efforts were not well received – he was beaten with clubs and stoned for his efforts. He somehow survived, so was promptly beheaded. 

Not exactly the romantic roots one would expect to be at the “heart” of Valentine’s Day.

Another account suggests St. Valentine was the Bishop of Terni, Italy. While under house arrest, he healed the blind daughter of Judge Asterius, who then converted along with a significant number of his friends and family. Upon gaining his freedom, he tried to evangelize the emperor Claudius. Similar to the previous account, his attempt earned him a gruesome execution.


St. Valentine was known for standing up for the rights of Christian prisoners. Image from here.

Based on the first account, there is an obvious link between St. Valentine and Christian marriage. But perhaps more significant is the common thread in both stories: a love for God so strong that St. Valentine was willing to risk his life to make that love known to his friends, his family and some of the most influential leaders of his day.

The story of St. Valentine’s life points to the significance of love and its centrality in Christian life. His story is a powerful account of the sacrifice that can be required in love. It reminds us that the Christian walk requires much courage and at times involves persecution.

Similarly, our relationships with one another require loving sacrifice: parents tend to the never-ending needs of young children; spouses faithfully support one another throughout sickness and health; and friends and siblings lovingly call one another to be the best versions of themselves.

St. Valentine’s life encourages us to pursue a true and more Christ-like love—a love that endures through long-term struggle and beyond romance or warm feelings.

So while you’re stocking up on roses, cards and treats in heart-shaped boxes, don’t forget to ask for the intercession of St. Valentine. May his life inspire you to love without counting the cost.


St. Valentine, pray for us! Image from here.

Marlena Loughheed is a communications coordinator with the Archdiocese of Toronto's Office of Public Relations and Communications.

Feb 02
Retrouvaille: Hope and Healing for Broken Marriages

Retrouvaille is an international community of disciples committed to the continued healing of their marriages and, empowered by the Holy Spirit, sharing their stories, talents and gifts to promote and spread the healing ministry of Retrouvaille. Below, Jason and Dielle Robb share how the program impacted their marriage and their family.


What attracted you to Retrouvaille? How did you hear about it?

The Retrouvaille program was a light in the darkest time of our marriage. We had passed through the stages of romance and disillusionment and were deep in misery. We had heard about Retrouvaille from our then parish priest, Father Paul Dobson, after we had approached him to help save our crumbling marriage.

How did participation impact your marriage? Any surprises?

We had no idea what lay before us when attending the weekend. The part that impacted us the most deeply was hearing from the presenters. They were couples who made it through very tough times and had managed to stop hurting each other and work on bettering their marriage. They shared their own experiences, they spoke from the heart with raw emotion and recounted the pain they had suffered. We could hear parts of our own story in theirs and hear our pain reflected in their voices. The amount of work expected of us was significant and it took a long time to heal. But when we were told we would never be alone, that we would forever be a part of a community that supports and cares for its members and they were rooting for our marriage to succeed, it was overwhelming. It allowed us to see beyond our feelings of pain and isolation and know that we didn't have to struggle alone.

Our involvement in Retrouvaille has also strengthened our relationship with God, as we have come to know that God wants us to love each other as He loves us. We can never match the perfect love that God has for us, but He asks that we try. We have come to know that God is part of our marriage and when things seem overwhelming, God is there to give us strength and grace to help us to continue to grow in love.

What is the benefit of journeying with other couples? What have you learned from them?

The Retrouvaille ministry is one of peers. Whether you have just started on the path to rebuilding your marriage or have been journeying for years, we come together to share our experiences so that we can gain an insight into ourselves and how we are called to grow. We make this journey together, encouraging one another to stay on this path. We are supported by the honesty and desire of the other couples to make their marriage a living sacrament. It is so wonderful to have a group of people who come together in one united purpose, to give support and encouragement so that each of our marriages can succeed and be strengthened.

What made you decide to move from participants to leaders in your ministry?

We decided to share our story as weekend presenters so that we could take all the pain we had lived through and share those experiences in the hopes it could help others. It gave extra meaning to the suffering we had endured. Those couples who shared their stories when we attended our weekend gave so much of themselves to help us, how could we not do the same? The healing we gain from sharing our story with other hurting couples through Retrouvaille is tremendous. Allowing them in to experience where we were and how far we've come is an amazing gift of healing for ourselves and we hope it demonstrates to those hurting couples that they can rebuild with God's help.

Any tips or advice for married couples as we celebrate Marriage Sunday? 

Don't give up! No matter how long you've suffered or what you've suffered, there is hope. You can heal those hurts with time, effort and a commitment to prioritize your marriage. We cannot promise an easy ride, but we can tell you from our own experience that it is possible to rebuild this most precious and beautiful sacrament, if you decide to do so. It won't just improve your lives, but it will make a tremendous difference in the lives of your children, your extended family and your community.

The Archdiocese of Toronto celebrates Marriage Sunday the weekend of February11/12, 2017. For more information and resources, visit www.archtoronto.org/marriage.

Jan 25
Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Day 8: Reconciled to God

Scripture

2 Corinthians 5:20 Reconciled to God
​Micah 4:1-5 In the last days justice will reign
Psalm 87 Glorious things are spoken of God
Revelation 21:1-5a God will make a new heaven and a new earth
John 20:11-18 Meeting the risen Christ leads to personal mission

Commentary

What if? What if the prophecies in the Bible actually came true? If the wars between people stopped and if life-giving things were to be made out of the weapons of war? What if God's justice and peace reigned, a peace which was more than simply the absence of war? If all of humanity came together for a celebration in which not a single person was marginalized? What if there really was no more mourning, no more tears, and no more death? It would be the culmination of the reconciliation that God brought about in Jesus Christ. It would be heaven!

Psalms, canticles, and hymns sing of the day when the whole perfected creation finally arrives at its goal, the day when God will be "all in all". They tell about the Christian hope for the fulfilment of God´s reign, when suffering will be transformed into joy. On that day, the Church will be revealed in her beauty and grace as the one body of Christ. Wherever we gather in the Spirit to sing together about the fulfilment of God's promises, the heavens break open and we begin here and now to dance to the melody of eternity.

As we can already experience this presence of heaven, let us celebrate together. We may be inspired to share images, poems and songs from our particular traditions. These materials can open up spaces for us to experience our common faith in and hope for God's Kingdom.

Questions

  • How do you envision heaven?
  • Which songs, stories, poems, and pictures from your tradition give you the feeling of participating in the reality of God´s eternity?

Prayer

Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, 
we thank you for this week of prayer, 
for being together as Christians 
and for the different ways 
we have experienced your presence. 
Let us always praise your holy name together 
so that we may continue to grow in unity and reconciliation. Amen. 

or:

Lamb of God, the heavens adore you, 
the saints and angels sing before you 
with harp and cymbals' clearest tone. 
Of one pearl each shining portal, 
where, joining with the choir immortal, 
we gather round your radiant throne. 
No eye has seen that light, 
no ear the echoed might 
of your glory; 
yet there shall we in victory 
sing shouts of joy eternally!

[German: "Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme," author: Philipp Nicolai (1599); English: "Wake, awake, the night is flying" (third stanza), translated by Catherine Winkworth]

Resource from the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

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