Monthly Archives: August 2017

It’s all about God – it’s not about me


Fr. Jim Clarke from Los Angeles took us on a new evangelization cosmological journey for 2 days recently at Galilee and finished with the above statement.  Darn, I had it all wrong, I thought.

During a philosophy course I recently took, in one of the online discussions one of the students said something like…the highest thing I can do in life is to act in a way true to myself and not be distracted by others.

On the surface this seems a very honest and appropriate way to live.  But where is God in this?  We men and women in our thoroughly modern world, sometimes see ourselves as a god and hence, no longer in need of God.  I certainly have been guilty of this during periods of my life.

For everything comes from God alone.  Everything lives by His power, and everything is for His glory.                                                                            Romans 11:36

Even Jesus had to grow in his ministry to learn that it was not about him, but about God’s will.  In the parable of the Canaanite woman with the tormented daughter, Jesus says to her – I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, (i.e., go away).  She persists and after saying that even dogs eat the scraps that fall from their master’s table, he decides to heal her daughter because he realizes God wants him to minister to all peoples, not just the Jews (MT 15:21-28).

We are meant to suffer Fr. Jim went on to explain.  Jesus does not alleviate our pain, he gives it meaning.  Salvation is pain, suffering, sorrow and failure confronted and transformed.  Do I allow my suffering to transform me from suffering to renewal?  He quoted author David Richo:

  1. Accept what happens in life and learn from it.
  2. Things are not always fair.
  3. Pain is a part of life.
  4. People are not loving and loyal all of the time.
  5. Receive your life as it is.
  6. Experience your life (not someone else’s)
  7. Share your life with others.
  8. We are to die to our own devices.

He quoted the Koran – we have to die during life so we will know how to die at the end of life.  He said we should banish negative thoughts and read more poetry.  He read a number of Mary Oliver, the creation mystic’s poems from Blackwater Woods.  He recommended Judy Cannaro’s book Field of Compassion for explaining recent scientific developments to a lay person of faith.  The new cosmology:

  1. Our identity does not depend on the groups we belong to.
  2. We can hold multiple points of view.
  3. Accept the reality of persons the way they are.
  4. No longer occupy yourself with particular pursuits. ( a hard one)
  5. Non-demanding relationships.
  6. Your presence invites others to transformation.
  7. Engaging the world but unattached to outcomes. (a hard one)
  8. Watch how the positive turns negative, then positive, then negative.
  9. Living in the moment.
  10. Deep compassion for all creation.

Stop looking at ourselves and stand and experience who God is.


Thanks Fr. Jim Clarke.







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Canoe Pilgrimage for Indigenous Reconciliation


We were very honoured to attend a living history event at the Galilee Renewal Centre in Arnprior on August 8.  About 30 canoeists, including Indigenous, Jesuits, English, French, men and women, dropped in on their way from Midland to Montreal on a pilgrimage to mark Canada’s 150th Anniversary celebrations.

The 2017 Canadian Canoe Pilgrimage is a project inspired by Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) with the hope of encouraging intercultural and interreligious dialogue and learning. Participants, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, are immersed in each other’s customs and traditions. Through this immersion, the goal is to foster deep respect, trust, dialogue and hopefully friendship, the building blocks for reconciliation.

The canoe route taken is a traditional First Nations trading route that was travelled by early European settlers such as Samuel de Champlain and Jean de Brébeuf, who were welcomed and guided by the Indigenous Peoples of this land. The route follows a similar one paddled by 24 young Jesuits in 1967.  Members of the Jesuit and Oblate religious orders, their lay volunteers and many others across Canada are actively helping to implement the Calls to Action described by the TRC.


About 40 guests were treated to the participative Kairos Blanket Exercise as a means to learn about the historic and contemporary relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples of Canada.  Bob, an Indigenous elder from Toronto with a Phd., first led us in a smudging ceremony to purify our bodies, auras and energy.  Then we were invited to walk slowly around on adjoining blankets as actors described specific historical events like:

  • what Turtle Island was like (Indigenous name for North America before colonization)
  • the era of European discovery and colonization of Canada
  • proclamation of the first Canadian Indian Act in 1873
  • establishment of Residential Schools for Indigenous children after 1880
  • U. N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007
  • PM Harper’s apology to First Nations peoples of 2008

Towards the end of the exercise, those still walking found themselves greatly reduced in number and, the blankets had shrunk and were separated from each other.  This was a grim reminder of the impact colonization and Canadian history has had on Indigenous peoples, from their cultural perspective.  We then participated in a talking circle where everyone was invited to reflect on what they had just learned and how they felt.  Much compassion, need for forgiveness and commitment to improving relations was expressed, even tears  It was a well-balanced and poignant educational experience.


Fr. Ken Forster, Provincial Superior of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Lacombe Canada Province celebrated an outdoor Mass for everyone under the stately white pines.  He emphasized forgiveness, committment and forging ahead in mutual reconciliation between Canadians and Indigenous peoples.  Our day finished off with a scrumptious spaghetti and meat ball dinner provided by Galilee. We marveled at the healthy appetite of the young paddlers and for their answering the call to reconciliation, forgiveness and committment.


We all went home more aware of our own history and of the need to support ongoing dialogue of mutual reconciliation based on hope and forgiveness.  We felt energized by the vitality of today’s youth in taking up this social challenge.   Improving relationships and building trust among all Canadians and in particular with Indigenous peoples is every Canadian’s business.  Our sincere thanks to the Galilee organizers, the paddlers and the contributors to this living history event of great educational value.



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Puzzling Over Romans 8:29-30

This passage from Romans was the second reading at this past Sunday’s Mass:

“For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined he also called; and those he called he also justified; and those he justified he also glorified.

This is in the past tense, right?  I thought my salvation would not be fully decided until the second coming of Jesus Christ.  i.e., in the future.  What is going on here?

I was raised in the Presbyterian faith and hence this passage would seem to speak to predestination: Faith in God is a gift of God and there is nothing you or I can do to effect our own salvation.  It’s up to Him alone and furthermore, He has already decided long before we were even born.  Now in the midst of continuing to work out my own salvation in the Catholic faith, I am curious: what does the Catholic Church say about the meaning of this particular reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans?

We were up in Cormac, ON at the annual St. Ann Pilgrimage for the outdoor mass.  Pembroke Bishop Mulhall was our celebrant.  In his homily he discussed the Gospel reading in Mathew but did not address the Catholic interpretation of the quoted passage from Romans.  The fact that it was very hot outside and a big crowd, was likely a factor in deciding not to go into this teaching, which would take extra time.


Pembroke Bishop Mulhall celebrates Mass as Ottawa Auxiliary Bishop Riesbeck looks on

On the surface it would appear Paul is saying that God decides in advance who he will call (to conversion), whom he will justify (by removing the guilt and penalty of sin to make them righteous) and who he will glorify (give eternal life to). i.e, it is predestined by God so there is nothing we can do in our lives about his decision.  Do we have free will or not?  Do  our actions in life contribute to our salvation or not?  Are we saved through our faith alone or through a combination of faith and good works as the Catholic Church teaches?  This is a major theological dividing line between Roman Catholics and Protestants.

Well I looked around the internet and found a number of Catholic commentaries on this passage, none of which were completely satisfactory in my view.  Then I came upon the explanation given in Nick’s Catholic Blog a few years back.

Perhaps surprisingly, he quotes a number of Eastern Rite Catholic Fathers who basically said that in deciding who He predestines to glory, God takes everything into consideration including whether someone really loves Him or not and how they go about their life.  Also for an omnisicent God there is no past, present and future as we understand it – He sees everything at once.  This explanation neatly preserves our free choice and strengthens the argument that good works do indeed matter and will be taken into consideration by God.  I like this interpretation.  Calvin it seems may have had it wrong.


4th Degree Knights of Columbus Colour Guard (me on the right)



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