Winnipeg Days 1-3

We have embarked on another adventure – this time to the great plains out west starting and ending in Winnipeg. Our first day we visited Assiniboine Park and enjoyed seeing some lovely English gardens and walking through a sculpture garden. The sculptures in stone or bronze were by the very talented Leo Mull. Many were of animals and some of people. He was German I believe who settled in Winnipeg to escape Nazi persecution. I have lots of photos but on another camera.

We finally saw Kyle and Ashley when they got home from work. Everything is well with them and baby Morgan is due soon. On Day 2, I picked about 50 lbs of apples from their backyard tree – McIntosh bumper crop – yum!! It was Kyle’s birthday so we celebrated at a Japanese steak house. Food and service were superb. Thank you Ichiban. Sake bomb!

Day 3 we walked from St Boniface around to the Forks. There was an outdoor press conference about‎ the Metis-Fairfax partnership investment to restore the rail line to Churchill. This project represents real tangible reconciliation. A big step forward since the the Metis Nation will control their own future in northern Manitoba.

Marie made some apple sauce. Ashley prepared one of her family’s‎ traditional perogie dinners and Kyle cooked some sausage and played the piano for us after dinner. It was another superb evening in Winnipeg. Tomorrow we hit the road.

Dave and Marie

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Prior Nature Highlights

We had a great summer in Arnprior with many hot and sunny days.  Hope you did too, wherever you are.  Here are a few of our local summer nature highlights:


Great Blue Heron


Neighbourhood Beaver


Swimming Hole


Neighbourhood Deer


Neighbourhood Green Heron


Mississippi River from Pakenham Trail Bridge


On the Trail from Arnprior to Pakenham


Neighbour Des


Cooling Off


Our Hibiscus


Neighbourhood Muskrat


Bird Bath


Madawaska River from Arnprior Trail Bridge


A Sunflower


Neighbourhood Osprey


McNamara Trail Lookout

May God Bless you.


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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.


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:


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.


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.


*(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?

St Rose 2
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


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.


Basilica of St. Mary Immaculate


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.


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


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.


Entrance to Auschwitz


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.


Our candlelight ceremony at his shrine


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!


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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An Incomprehensible World


As we grapple with another mass shooting in Toronto, I am reminded that we live in an incomprehensible world.  In the Old Testament Book of Job, Job is defined as a very good man who has not knowingly ever sinned.  He is also very rich as God has blessed him with plenty.  He regularly offers to God burnt offerings for his sons and daughters, just in case they have sinned.

The story unfolds and Job loses everything in a series of calamities including all his family (save his wife), all his wealth and even his health.  We learn at the start that God has permitted Satan to torment Job because God knows Job’s faith will not fail, regardless of life’s suffering and loss.

We find Job sitting on an ash heap in the dump trying to relieve the itch of the sores which cover his body.  His wife advises him to curse God and die. Then, in a series of conversations with his friends Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, they advise him: ” Job you must have done something wrong – confess your sins and ask for God’s forgiveness.”

Job is having none of it: “I have done nothing wrong and God knows it.  If only I could get a judge to arbitrate between me and God, I will be vindicated.”  His friends are astonished and think, boy has he gone off the rails as they know how God thinks and acts.

A fourth friend, Elihu emerges and takes a different tack.  “God is supreme, bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people.  Who are you Job to pit your righteousness against God’s?  One must acknowledge and submit to God’s total supremacy and be humble about it.”

Job is silent and God finally speaks: “Job, how dare you presume to know how the world was created and works.  How dare you ask to haul me into court and press charges.  If you are so smart, go ahead and show me your stuff!!” Job says,  “I am sorry for my words Lord, I am listening.”  Then it comes, God says “Who could confront me and get by with it?  I am in charge of all this – I run the universe!”  Job apologizes to God again and says that he babbled on about things that are far beyond him.

[There is a little more in the book – God admonishes the 3 friends for presuming to know how God thinks and works.  He will forgive them if they go to Job and ask him to sacrifice a burnt offering on their behalf.  They do, Job does and they are forgiven.  The mysterious Elihu is not mentioned again.  Finally, God restores Job’s health and wealth and doubles it.]

While it appears that faith in God is rewarded in the end, there is no guarantee of this  – we cannot presume to know God’s ways.  The world is and always will remain incomprehensible to us – we are mere specs of dust in the universe hardly worthy of God’s attention.  He has bigger fish to fry.  We cannot presume to know how God acts or thinks. It is a pretty bleak outlook that we must accept in humility. The Abrahamic or Semitic tradition has taught us that we really do live in an incomprehensible world and so we must rely on God’s mercy.

[A note about the Book of Job.  It is a very old text (circa 6th century BCE) and may have actually been written originally by Sumerians.  The inclusion of God’s pact with Satan at the start and the mysterious appearance of Elihu some think, were grafted on at a later date.  It is considered to be one the greatest poems of ancient and modern times, an absolutely great read I must add.]







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Serving Two Masters – Why Catholics Still Can’t Be Masons

ServingI found this little booklet at the back of the church and was intrigued by the title.  I have no interest in the Masons.  However my great Uncle Alex was a Freemason of the Scottish 33 Degree Order in Canada . I possess his ring which is inscribed “Virtus Junxit Mors Non Separabit” (Whom virtues unites, death will not separate).  So my family on my mother’s side has a history.

Why can’t a Catholic also belong to the Masons?  Deacon Cerrato’s argument starts with the fact that Christ said “No one can serve two masters for either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. (Mt 6:24).  He then goes into detail with documented evidence that the Free Masons Order is for all intents and purposes a “religion”, even though they vehemently deny this.  The roots of the word religion mean “to bind”.  There are two fundamental beliefs that a Mason must hold if they wish to join: 1) Existence of a Supreme Being, and 2) The immortality of the soul.  Hence they are bound by this.


The Supreme Being is a deistic concept and not necessarily the Trinitarian God that Christians believe in.  Immortality of the soul sounds OK you think, but it is how you get there wherein Catholics and Freemasons differ, as we shall see.

Furthermore as the author points out, Masons believe that various religions are created equal (religious relativism).  Proof of this is that in the Entered Apprentice initiation ceremony, the book opened on the altar is the Bible if one is Christian, the Tanakh if one is a Jew or the Koran if one is a Muslim.  The candidate must “swear” before this book that he will not divulge the secrets of Masonry.  There are two problems for Catholics here: 1) Swearing an oath in God’s name violates the Second Commandment (Ex 20:17, Deut 5:11).  2) Secondly, believing that all religions are equal denies that the Catholic faith is the one “true religion” handed down by Jesus when he gave Peter the keys to the Church.

Masons believe that their soul’s afterlife can be attained by good works and secret knowledge (gnosticism).  They do not (have to) believe in the doctrine of original sin, man’s diminished nature and our need for salvation through Jesus Christ with God’s grace (Pelagianism).  This is a non starter for Catholics – there is no salvation outside of personal belief in the life and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The doctrines of religious relativism, gnosticism and Pelagianism are all heresies that have been condemned by the Church.

In short, while the Church has nothing against individual Masons or their charitable philanthropic activities, it does have grave objections to the organization’s religious character and its ability to subvert the faith of Catholics who join or support its fraternity.  At this point I was totally convinced that one can not be a Catholic and a Freemason, as the beliefs, rituals, symbols and documents are mutually exclusive.

But what of the Knights of Columbus you say – are they not a secret fraternal society not that different from the Freemasons?  The critical difference says the author is where the Knights of Columbus supplement the faith of its Catholic members, Freemasonry supplants the faith of its Catholic members.  This is why 21 different Popes have condemned Freemasonry and its beliefs in various bulls under pain of excommunication, for any Catholic who joins.

An interesting aspect of Deacon Cerrato’s discussion deals with salvation.  In Dominus Iesus (2006 document by the Sacred Congregation of the Faith) affirmed that the full means of salvation subsists in the Catholic Church, other Christian churches (Orthodoxy) and ecclesial communities (Protestants), participate in the salvic grace of Christ to the extent they are in imperfect communion with the Catholic Church. Furthermore, non-Christians can also partake of this saving grace from God “in ways known to Himself” although the Church considers that they are in a gravely deficient spiritual situation.  Wow, I did not know all this and am both relieved and pleased!

All in all, a very well written and enlightening booklet on this subject.  Thank you so much Deacon Cerrato.





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The Death of Ivan Ilyich


This novela by the famous Russian novelist and philosopher Leo Tolstoy was hard to put down.  It tells the story of a successful 19th century Russian man who suddenly becomes ill and is dying.  He has to deal with pain and death and the meaninglessness of his life and death.  The story is told in poignant  detail in the “realist” writing style of the mid-19th century.  Such novelists saw themselves as clinical realists whose job was to describe exactly the way life is or was with no personal filters, colouration or romanticism applied.  It was like a scientific experiment – report exactly what you see and what you conclude based on the reality of everyday life.  Obviously this is impossible to do without imparting some personal view, perspective or flavour.  In this case, this book is actually a philosophic treatise on the meaningless of life due to the consequences of consumerism and secularization that was rampant in Leo’s time.

Leo Tolstoy is a very interesting character.  Born into a wealthy family in 1828 south of Moscow, he gave up all his wealth to live as a common serf in search of the real meaning of life.  Deeply religious, he began writing novels and papers on what he saw and what he thought about everyday life in Russia and Europe in the mid 19th century.  You have heard and may have read one of his famous books such as War and Peace and Anna Karenina.  Towards the end of his life, he abandoned his wife, children and hut to become a wandering esthetic but died shortly thereafter in 1910.

In the Death of Ivan Ilyich, like most of us, Ivan struggles with the fear of death and when he is dying, the utter meaningless of his life’s successes: court judge, wife, children, friends, status, good income etc..  It all means nothing when one is dying.  He is even a burden to his family as they can’t wait for him to die to get on with their lives.  As he suffers through his pain and thoughts, near the end he finally comes to grips with his own death.  In accepting the inevitability of his death he is suddenly able to feel compassion for others for the first time.  This is the “light”: One must live their life in full awareness and acceptance that they are dying and only then is there real meaning to life and compassion for others and, a better ability to prioritize what one does with their life, in the short time that we have.  Wow! 10 out of 10 by a real master.


Leo Tolstoy at 79, courtesy Wikipedia



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World Cup Fever


I am an on again, off again sports fan.  About a week before our Baltic cruise, I noticed a posting from a guy named Jack on the Cruisecritic roll call where people meet up beforehand.  He was desperately looking for someone to accompany him on an evening out in Saint Petersburg to experience World Cup fever.  I cautiously responded that I was intrigued and potentially interested.

In Russia you can’t just walk off the ship and wander around.  You either have to have a tourist visa ($$$) or have signed up with an accredited Russian tour company who provide you with a blanket visa while on one of their tours.  As it turned out, we had both already contracted with Alla Tours to see Saint Petersburg so it was easy for me to join him in this private tour.

Not sure what to expect, Jack said he had experienced World Cup fever before and said I would love the excitement of the fans in the streets, bars, jumbo screens etc..  Marie and I tend to enjoy soccer or futebol as they call it elsewhere.  So Jack and I headed out the first evening we were in Saint Petersburg for our world cup fever tour.

Our tour guide asked us what we wanted to do.  I wanted to see the new stadium built specifically for the world cup in Saint Petersburg.  We could not get into it but we stopped for a photo.  It is known as Krevtosky or Zenit Stadium, cost $1.7millionUS and seats some 68,000.  Would love to have gone to a game there but would you have to apply to FIFA many months in advance to get a ticket.  Morocco and Iran were to play here the following night.  A ticket costs from $90 to $150US but also provides you with a “fanpass visa” entitling you to go anywhere in the country for 45 days.  Pretty cool.


We then stopped at a souvenir shop and we each bought a nice Russia World Cup 2018 ball cap.  Jack then suggested we go to a bar.  Our guide whose name I have unfortunately forgotten, was a nice young man and suggested we go to a “local bar”.


Hello comrade Lenin, comrade Morgan here.

We sauntered into a bar.  Before we sat down, I warily took a picture of everyone and they cheered!  Good start I thought.  We ordered some beer and food and were enjoying ourselves when 2 Russians at the next table noticed us came over to offer us some vodka and to have a toast.  It does not get more local than this I thought!  One of the Russians was a navy captain as had been Jack, so we all connected around that topic.  The vodka actually tasted good!  It is ordered in shot glasses or in a larger glass container.  You drink it straight down and follow it with a fruit juice chaser.




Our tour guide centre, friendly Russian navy captain on right

Jack disappeared outside for a while to chat and I continued chatting with my Russian friend and other fans as they came by.  It was soon time to head out to the streets and we said our goodbyes.  As we left the sidewalk in front was crowded with people chatting and having a good time.  A couple of young Russian men raced by with their flag, their team having just defeated Saudi Arabia.


We walked a few blocks down Nevsky Prospect and joined in the fun.  Fans of Morocco and of Iran were running down the sidewalks and chanting and singing out their country’s praise with large flags. We high-fived each other and everyone smiled and cheered.   We were all one in our love of futebol and our home nation.



The next day we saw the Fanfest zone where they have the jumbo screens and non-stop fan celebrations to which you need a ticket.  This was truly a memorable world experience!


Towards the end of the cruise we met Jack again with his lovely wife Carmy for a drink.  It was a fitting way to say goodbye after a great time together.  We made tentative plans to travel together again sometime.  As I write this, Russia has just defeated Spain to enter the quarter finals.  Go Russia Go!  However, perennial favorite team Brazil is also in the running.  Thanks Jack for the intiative to arrange this fab tour.






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