Fr Bob Writes – Sept 27, 2015

Statement on Assisted Suicide issued by the Plenary Assembly of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops – September 18, 2015

Yesterday, we were at Saint Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal to celebrate the Year of Consecrated Life. The Oratory is a special place of prayer, inspired by the city’s own Saint Brother André Bessette who brought healing and hope to those in need. It honours Joseph, husband of Mary, Mother of Jesus. We venerate Saint Joseph as patron of Canada, and also as patron of a good death because he had Jesus and Mary at his side to comfort him in his dying. There in this sanctuary, where so many have found healing and consolation, we gave thanks for the thousands of women and men from all across our land who have given their lives to their brothers and sisters through prayer, health care, education, and other works of service and solidarity with the poor and marginalized.

Moved by the powerful example of their generosity and how they have promoted and protected human dignity in the many sectors of society, we affirm our nation’s long tradition of caring for the sick and the vulnerable. We cannot but express our outrage at the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada to create a new “constitutional right” in Canada, the so-called “right” to suicide. Nor can we suppress our profound dismay, disappointment and disagreement with the Court’s decision. The ruling would legalize an action that, from time immemorial, has been judged immoral: the taking of innocent life. Moreover, it puts at risk the lives of the vulnerable, the depressed, those with physical or mental illness, and those with disabilities.

In the face of the terrible suffering that can be caused by illnesses or depression, a truly human response should be to care, not to kill. Likewise, the response to the anguish and fear people can experience at the end of their lives is to be present to them, offering palliative care, not intentionally to cause their death. The need for palliative care should be one of the most pressing preoccupations of our country and its institutions. This is where the energies and resources of our elected leaders should be directed. This is why we advocate making high-quality palliative care, long-term care, and home care easily accessible to all Canadians.

We are in the midst of a federal election campaign. The candidates’ silence on the question of assisted suicide astonishes us. This question is fundamental for our society and its future. Have we relinquished the ability to debate the profound questions of life that touch us all? Are our politicians that terrified by the risk of awkwardly phrased responses, getting “off message”, or the ups and downs of public opinion polls? We urge all the citizens of our country to raise this question of life and death at meetings with candidates, to stimulate a true debate worthy of our great country.

The one-year period given by the Supreme Court is far too short for such a fundamental change in our laws to enter into force. We urge the government that is elected on October 19 to invoke the Notwithstanding Clause and extend this timeline to five years. If ever a legal decision warranted invoking this clause in our Constitution, this is it. We need to allow ourselves time to reflect before acting, time to consider seriously the consequences of our actions in dealing with this crucial moral issue.

Furthermore, we must at all cost uphold and protect the conscience rights of the men and women who work as caregivers. Requiring a physician to kill a patient is always unacceptable. It is an affront to the conscience and vocation of the health-care provider to require him or her to collaborate in the intentional putting to death of a patient, even by referring the person to a colleague. The respect we owe our physicians in this regard must be extended to all who are engaged in health care and work in our society’s institutions.

As Catholic Bishops, we speak in terms that are informed by reason, ethical dialogue, religious conviction and profound respect for the dignity of the human person. Our awareness is shaped by thousands of years of reflection, and by our actions as Christians in following Jesus. He showed most fully what it means to love, to serve, and to be present to others. His response to the suffering of others was to suffer with them, not to kill them! He accepted suffering in his life as the pathway to giving, to generosity, to mercy. One does not have to be a believer to recognize in Jesus’ life and action a supreme example of humanity. The values of Jesus of Nazareth are the basis for our views on assisted suicide. Canada has nothing to fear in committing itself to these profoundly human and life-giving values.

It is in this spirit of collaboration in building a society more compassionate, more respectful of the dignity of all human life, more just and more generous that we make this heartfelt cry. Remembering the humble witness of Saint Brother André, we invite all Canadians to build a society that respects the dignity of every person. May our call be heard with respect, attention and openness.

Fr Bob Writes – September 20, 2015

In St Peter’s Square, on June 16th, 2013, Pope Francis said the following:

“Christians are “spiritual.” This does not mean that we are people who live “in the clouds,” far removed from real life, as if it were some kind of mirage. No! The Christian is someone who thinks and acts in everyday life according to God’s will, someone who allows his or her life to be guided and nourished by the Holy Spirit, to be a full life, a life worthy of true sons and daughters. And this entails realism and fruitfulness. Those who let themselves be led by the Holy Spirit are realists; they know how to survey and assess reality. They are also fruitful; their lives bring new life to birth all around them.” 

Last week, as you probably know, Pope Francis invited parishes, religious communities, monasteries and shrines throughout Europe to welcome refugee families in preparation for the Year of Mercy. The president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher wrote in an open letter to Canadian Catholics , in response to the pope’s call: “Should we in Canada do less? When we refuse to welcome others, our country, our homes and our hearts become closed to life. Although many among us face economic difficulties, what we have and own is so much more than what is accessible to the world’s refugees. For our own peace of mind and our eternal salvation, we cannot refuse to share what we have with those in need.”

We have just begun, at St Philip’s and St Clare’s, a process of seeking how we can respond to the pope’s invitation to sponsor a refugee family. Is this something we could, and should, be doing at this time? Should we look to forming a collective response with other churches in Richmond, and other parishes nearby, and perhaps with local Muslims also? I have been consulting with some of the organizations in the parishes on this, and I would be grateful for any suggestion or insight or comment you might have to make. How can we approach this tragic situation in Syria and Iraq with “realism and fruitfulness” and in a way worthy of Christians?

Fr Bob Writes – September 13, 2015

At a General Audience in St Peter’s Square, on May 15th, 2013, Pope Francis issued these challenging words:

“Let us ask ourselves …what steps are we taking to ensure that faith governs the whole of our existence. We are not Christian “part-time,” only at certain moments, in certain circumstances, in certain decisions; no one can be Christian in this way. We are Christian all the time! Totally! May Christ’s truth, which the Holy Spirit teaches us and gives to us, always and totally affect our daily life. Let us call on him more often so that he may guide us on the path of disciples of Christ. Let us call on him every day.”

So what are we doing at St Philip’s and St Clare’s to ensure that faith governs the whole of our existence? Last week I spoke about the first part of the faith-growth program we are implementing in the next couple of months: the 33 Days to Morning Glory from the Hearts Afire program, which Deacon Mark spoke about in his homily two Sundays ago. Now I want to sketch out the remaining parts of this coming year’s faith-growth program.

Straight after the 33 Days personal and communal retreat, which finishes with our Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on November 21st, those people who, by then, have offered to open their homes for small group discussion of the Matthew Kelly book, Rediscovering Catholicism, will be meeting for three months training in how to run a home “cell group.” This will take us up to March of next year. At this time, we will implement part 2 of the Hearts Afire program, Consoling the Heart of Jesus. When this  is done, probably by early spring, we will launch house groups throughout the two parishes to discuss the Rediscovering Catholicism book (which was given out to everyone at Pentecost this year). The purpose of these small groups is to facilitate discussion in the groups of issues related to our Catholic faith. If you know someone in your neighbourhood, or in your family, or among your friends, who has lapsed from their faith, or has expressed an interest in learning more about the Catholic faith, it would be an ideal environment to bring them into, so they can explore these issues in a comfortable, safe, confidential environment.

If you truly do not want to be a “part-time Christian Catholic,” I invite your participation in our faith-growth parish program in the year ahead!!

Fr Bob Writes – September 6, 2015

In the most recent edition of the Knights of Columbus magazine, Colombia, the Supreme Chaplain of the Knights, Archbishop Lori wrote the following inspiring words about the role of the parish. He writes this:

“In his Apostolic Exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel”, Pope Francis speaks about the importance of parish life. He affirms St John Paul II’s description of a parish as “the Church living in the midst of the homes of her sons and daughters” (cf. Christifideles Laici, 26). He then goes on to say “This presumes that (the parish) really is in contact with the homes and lives of its people , and does not become a useless structure out of touch with people or a self-absorbed group made up of a chosen few” (Evangelii Gaudium, 28).

Pope Francis insists that the parish is called to be the presence of the Church in a community, providing a place where people can hear God’s word, grow in discipleship, and extend themselves in love to the poor and needy – a place where they can pray, worship and celebrate.”

What are we going to be doing at St Philip’s and St Clare’s in the coming year to realize this vision for parish life? There are of course many initiatives already in place to help our parish communities “pray, worship and celebrate.” Added to this, we are going to be starting a

program called Hearts Afire.  Deacon Mark spoke about this in his homily last weekend, calling it a “parish-based program for the New Evangelization and faith renewal.” The first part of the program is a personal and communal retreat , based on prayer and reflection around the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and using the book “33 Days to Morning Glory” written by Fr Michael Gaitley. The program has daily readings over 33 days, (hence the title), and, in addition, each week on a Wednesday evening, we will meet in St Philip’s to listen to a 20 minute talk by Fr Gaitley and discuss it. At the end of the 33 days, on November 21st (the feast of the Presentation of Mary), there will be the opportunity after Mass to consecrate ourselves to Mary’s Immaculate Heart, which of course, is always linked to Jesus’ Sacred Heart, so a consecration to one is also a consecration to the other. Can you imagine the spiritual impact on our parish communities of a united act of consecration to Jesus and Mary? What blessings that will bring down upon our parishes, our families, our neighbourhoods, our city!

This is just one of many new initiatives to come in our parishes in the year ahead, designed to help us become the best version of a parish community that we can be. Will you join me, deacon Mark and deacon Louis, in giving ourselves over to the guidance of the Holy Spirit for the increase of the Kingdom of God in our midst?