Monthly Archives: August 2018

A Visit to Round Lake

Round Lake

Round Lake is about 2 hours west of Ottawa and is perched just east of Algonquin Park.  The people there are very spiritual and friendly.

In the summer 1989, our extended family had access to a cottage on Round Lake. I can still see the waves lapping in to the sandy shore and feel the warmth of the sunset over the lake. Our parish priest Fr. John Burchat hails from Round Lake having grown up in this small community.

The other day I paid a visit to a friend there, Fr. John Bosco Gali, OMI.  He is parish priest at St. Casimir’s RC Church, on the banks of the beautiful sandy shored Round Lake.  It was his last day to be assigned there.

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St Casimir’s Church, Round Lake

St. Casimir’s was founded in 1928 in Round Lake whose full-time population is listed as 516. In summer the numbers swell with cottagers and campers.  The Parish is not without sadness.  On March 20, 2011, a tragic fire burned down the rectory killing the popular Fr. George Olsen who was trapped in the basement: https://ottawa.ctvnews.ca/eastern-ont-priest-believed-to-be-victim-of-fatal-fire-1.621568

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The rectory was rebuilt and Fr. John Gali was assigned there as Parochial Vicar 5 years ago.  Fr. John was born in South East India in Tamil Nadu State.  He had a very traditional Catholic upbringing in a community of families whose faith was to promote at least one child to religious vocation.  His family supported his call to serve God.  He was ordained into the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate on December 8, 1994.  He came to Canada in 2011 as a member of the Assumption (Polish) Oblate Province of Canada.

Fr John Bosco Gali

Fr. John Bosco Gali, OMI (photo courtesy of Ecclesia*)

Marie and I had met him on a pilgrimage to Wilno, ON at St. Mary’s and had been trying to get together ever since, to chat. He is going to Poland on a one year sabbatical to learn the Polish language and culture. It was very gracious of him to fit me in on his last day. There were people coming and going. Despite that we sat down for an hour and had a chat over pizza. He raves about India and how strong the Catholic faith is there. Think of Mother Theresa he said and you will begin to understand the face of Catholicism there.

Fr. John likes being an Oblate in the Polish Province.  They are a strong province with resources.  His position will apparently not be back filled until November 2018 when another Oblate becomes available .  The pastor at St. Mary’s, Fr. Roman Majek, OMI will be responsible for St. Casimir’s in the meantime.  I was told by some parishioners I met that they will miss Fr. John dearly.

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In front of the new rectory

 

Fr. John says living in Round Lake is not unlike living in the small village he grew up in.  “It is so inspiring to journey with a traditional family community in St. Casimir’s Round Lake…It has been a great privilege and the blessing of God that the Lord offered me this opportunity, and I am grateful to God.”

God Bless you and goodbye for now Fr. John, St. Eugene de Mazenod, pray for us.

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*(With information and quotes from Ecclesia, the Newsletter of the Catholic Diocese of Pembroke, Feb 2018 edition)

 

 

 

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What is God Telling Us Today?

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What is God telling us today?  What is God telling me today?  This is a question I struggle to answer these days with all the news of wrongdoing in the Church and world.  In today’s Gospel reading MT 22:1-14, we are left with Jesus words “Many are invited but few are chosen.”  This is in reference to the man who accepted the King’s invitation to come to the wedding feast.  However, he shows up without wedding garments and is noticed by the King, who then orders him cast out.

This is a difficult message from Jesus to understand clearly.  Our pastor this morning said because the man did not show up in his baptismal garments, he did not repent and pray and so was rejected by God.  Hence it is a warning that God’s gift of eternal life is not unconditional – we must first come to the feast and repent and pray – in order to ensure he that chooses us.  Just responding to God’s call with lip service towards his call is not sufficient.  Pope Francis says that we are all called to holiness and it is up to us to respond through sincere faith, repentance and prayer.  We have free choice!

In the Protestant faith this passage has a slightly different understanding.  Whoever responds to the call and receives Christ in faith, are the chosen or the “elect”.  However it is God who has done both the calling and the choosing.  EP 1:4 – “Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. ”  They also quote 2 Tim 1:9 and Rom 8:30 in this regard.  Responding to the God’s call in repentance, prayer and faith is because God has been at work to turn us to himself in Christ.  Hence it is by the grace of God alone that we are saved.

Whether you believe in a deterministic world (everything is preordained in advance) or an indeterministic one (we have free choice), is not important.  What God is saying here is that if you sincerely have faith in Christ, repent and pray, you will be saved and have eternal life.

The importance of listening.

St. Rose of Lima, Patroness of the America’s pray for us.

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St. Maximilian Kolbe: Choice, not Chance

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Yesterday was the feast day of Saint Maximilian Kolbe.  We had a special Mass in our church followed by veneration of a first class relic of his courtesy of the JP II Centre of Divine Mercy in Ottawa.

Two years ago, Marie and I went to Poland on a spiritual pilgrimage and stayed at his shrine in Niepokalanow (City of the Immaculate Mother of God).  While St. Maximilian is known for his martyrship at Auschwitz, he is perhaps not as well-known for the global evangelization he did during his life.

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Basilica of St. Mary Immaculate

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It`s Altar with the Virgin Mary

Witnessing vehement demonstrations by Freemasons against Popes St. Pius X and Benedict XV while in Rome, in 1917 he organized the Militia Immaculatae to work for the conversion of sinners and enemies of the Roman Catholic Church, specifically the Freemasons, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary.   In 1922 he founded the monthly periodical Knight of the Immaculate in Poland which eventually had a circulation of 750,000.

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Entrance to the Chapel-Sanctuary in one of the original buildings

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Museum filled with his artifacts

 

But Maximilian was just starting.  In 1927 he founded a Franciscan monastery at Niepokalanov that was at one time, the largest in the world with as many as 700 friars and brothers.  He then founded a similar community in Nagasaki, Japan which survived the atomic bombing.  He founded a monastery in India in 1936.  He returned in poor health to Poland and started a radio station Radio Niepokalanow.

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Entrance to Auschwitz

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He continued his work after the outbreak of WWII.  In 1941 he was arrested by the Gestapo.  On August 14 he died due to an injection of carbolic acid at Auschwitz after having volunteered to take the place of another prisoner chosen for death.  He was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1982.

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Our candlelight ceremony at his shrine

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St. Maximilian Kolbe Ascension

“In order that obedience be supernatural it must not proceed from reason, but from faith.”

― St. Maximilian Kolbe, Let Yourself Be Led by the Immaculate

 

St. Maximilian Kolbe, pray for us.

 

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The Future Will Tell

Apart from the Jewish people, I know of no other race or nationality that have suffered more persecution, brutality, deceit and imposed immorality than the Polish people, yet have somehow they have overcome their indignities.  You might argue that black Africans, the Armenians or more recently the Rohinga, are being persecuted similarly, but the Poles have suffered for hundreds of years and they are still around!

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I found this gem of a book in my local library.  It is the memoir of an upper class Polish lady – Countess Maria Tarnovska.  It’s the story of her life in Europe during  WWI and in Poland during WWII.  She married a Polish diplomat, trained as a nurse and rose to be 2nd IC of the Red Cross in Warsaw during WW2.

The first part of the book is an enjoyable romp through the lives of diplomats living in the capitals of Europe just prior to WW1 – Madrid, Vienna, London, Oslo, Paris, Belgrade and Washington.  There are many delightful stories and anecdotes of what the people were like in each of these countries.  They had no sense of the impending darkness that was about to engulf them all.  Well connected, Maria even played bridge with England’s King Edward VII just before he died in 1910.  When WW1 broke out, she and her husband Adam returned to Poland where she served as a nurse in front line battlefields tending to injured soldiers.

She joined the Red Cross in between wars.  During WWII due to her many strengths and abilities, she became a key figure in the Polish Underground.  She recants in simple prose the overwhelming might of the German war machine that violated the treaty of non aggression and overran Poland in 3 days in August 1939.  Polish officers fled to Russia and were later secretly executed by the Bolsheviks because they were a political threat.

The Warsaw Uprising started 74 years ago today, and lasted for 63 glorious days until snuffed out by the soon to be defeated Germans.  The Russian army camped on the east bank of the Vistula  River failed to intervene on the side of the Polish fighters as they had promised.   Stalin had made a secret pact with Churchill and Roosevelt that Poland would be theirs as soon as the Germans were defeated.  15,000 resistanceFighters and as many as 200,000 civilians lost their life for nothing as it was never the intent of the Allies to allow Poland to become a free state again! What infamy!!!

So why did the Germans and the Russians hate the Poles so much?  They were hated for their strong (Catholic) faith and concept of freedom.  You could not convert a Pole or beat it out of them – the only way was extermination.  Maria makes a big distinction between the Wehrmacht – the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany and the Gestapo or SS police.  Wehrmacht Generals and soldiers were professionals who insisted on according the Polish people the rights that prisoners of war were due.  The Gestapo were hugs who delighted in the cruelest and vilest of indignities.  At one point the SS would round-up 100 people in the street and shoot them as surely a few of them were underground fighters.  It was the SS that ran the Concentration camps and implemented Hitler’s final solution for the Jews.

In all this Maria was never harmed herself.  She was imprisoned several times and after questioning, freed.  She must have had a commanding personality that enabled her to remain cool under pressure as she was connected with the Warsaw Underground at the highest of levels.  As a rep of the Red Cross, she took a direct part in negotiating the end of the Uprising and evacuation of Warsaw that followed.  She says no matter how vile the Germans were, the Communists were worse.  The Germans would inform the family when one of their members was imprisoned or executed.  The Communists after the war, would abduct dissenters in the middle of the night and the family would never know what happened.  A neighbour could snitch about something you said and you were gone.

The book is written in a gentle steadfast style without dwelling on death or violence.  She even forgave the Germans as the vast majority of them were good people who unfortunately fell under the spell of a madman when he told them that they were Gods. She is not as sympathetic to the Communists, many of who were Polish people with Russian names who fled to Russia and then returned to claim big government jobs in 1946.

Finally there is a Canadian connection to how this book came to life.  Written in the 50s in Brazil, the manuscript was held by the Tarnovska family for a generation until a relative living in Montreal undertook to get it published in 2016.  Wow, an amazingly fresh first hand story of what it was like to live in Warsaw with hope at a time when the darkest recesses of the human soul were on daily display. 9.5 out of 10 stars.

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