Good Friday 2016 Jubilee of Mercy Message
Headline in the Windsor Star - September 27, 2013 - "Removal of Cross Triggers Sadness"
A large steel cross which loomed high above the Ouellette Avenue entrance of Hotel-Dieu Grace Hospital since the building's 1962 grand opening came down Friday, while a group of about 50 protesters expressed their sadness by reciting prayers, psalms and the rosary… The religious artifacts were removed because starting Tuesday the downtown medical site will become Windsor Regional Hospital's Ouellette Campus and will no longer be connected to its roots of the past 125 years with the Catholic religious community.
Many today cannot bear to look at the cross and the crucified one. They regard displays of the cross in public to be no longer appropriate and they want to remove them.
But such attitudes of advanced secularization in a pluralistic society must be questioned -it is not only a denial of the importance of history but it raises a series of questions:
Has suffering no longer a place in a world of wellness?
Do we push suffering away and suppress it?
What would our world be missing, especially what would the many who suffer be missing if this sign of love and mercy were no longer permitted to be publicly visible?
Should we no longer be reminded that: "By his wounds we are healed?"
To believe in the crucified son is to believe that love is present in the world that it is more powerful than hate and violence, more powerful than all the evil in which human beings are entangled.
"Believing in this love means believing in mercy"
Calvary sets in consoling relief the experience of all who suffer, whether the nightmare of physical pain or the emotional trauma of significant loss or the prospect of imminent death.
The human Jesus, struggling to come to terms with the reality of his predicament, echoes every human experience of suffering and of loss and reflects the complexity and confusion of emotions that attend all those caught in the slipstream of pain and loss and death.
Today, in homes and in hospitals all over Canada, those who experience pain and desolation in whatever form, all those who like Mary stand at the foot of the cross, will sense something of the complexity of emotions that were present on Calvary: the same confusion, the same disillusionment, the same desolation, the same anger, the same reproach.
How many indeed this Friday will, in whatever shape or form, echo the great lamentation of Jesus as he died on the cross: My God, what have you done to me, answer me?
All who are suffering in whatever form this Good Friday, all who struggle to make sense of what, by any human estimate, seems to be senseless will find an echo of their pain in the sufferings of Jesus because the contradiction of the cross is that what it represents, the sufferings of Christ, continues to save and to heal and to comfort.
Contemplating Jesus on the cross brings comfort and resilience and strength to those who need it. And it reminds us that it is through his suffering that everyone and everything is redeemed, that the power and the presence and promise of God are now accessible to us in our suffering and in our need.
In the pierced heart of his son, God shows us that he went to extremes in order to bear, through his son's voluntary suffering unto death, the immeasurable suffering of the world, our coldheartedness, and our lack of love, and sought to redeem them.
By means of the water and blood streaming from Jesus' pierced heart, we are washed clean in Baptism of all the dirt and muck that has accumulated in us and in the world; and in the Eucharist, we may always quench our thirst for more than the banalities that surround us and, in a figurative sense, satisfy our thirst for more than the "soft drinks" that are offered to us there.
Thus with Ignatius of Loyola's prayer Anima Christi (the Soul of Christ) we can say:
Soul of Christ, sanctify me
Body of Christ, save me
Blood of Christ, inebriate me
Water from the side of Christ, wash me
Passion of Christ, strengthen me
Good Jesus, hear me
Within the wounds, shelter me
from turning away, keep me
From the evil one, protect me
At the hour of my death, call me
Into your presence lead me
to praise you with all your saints
Forever and ever
Kiss the cross on this Good Friday, not for God's sake but for your own.
☩ Frederick Henry
A sure sign that spring is near, according to Parks Canada, is the sight of the first grizzly bear of the season coming out of winter hibernation.
As this natural process unfolds, it is an apt time to review the recommended bear safety tips for people visiting mountain parks: ensure pets are on a leash while out walking; travel in groups and make noise; and have bear spray within reach and know how to use it. The number one safety tip is "Knowing how to reduce an encounter before it happens as that is good for people and good for bears."
This latter safety tip would also make good sense in politics. Probably, the worst thing you could do would be to poke and prod a hibernating bear, or the majority of the population, especially parents and educators, with a stick.
Alas, the Guidelines for Best Practice re Diverse Sexual Orientations, Gender Identities and Gender Expressions from the Ministry of Education do precisely that.
The stick or underlying principle is "Self-identification is the sole measure of an individual's sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression."
This is simply not congruent with Catholic teaching on human sexuality. Gender identity is determined at conception, genetically, anatomically and chromosomally.
The Ministry's underlying principle leads to a subset of so-called "best practices," for example:
"No student or family should be referred to programs which purport to 'fix,'change' or 'repair' a student's sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression." p5
"Some individuals may not feel included in the use of the pronouns "he" or "she" and may prefer alternate pronouns, such as "ze," "zir," "hir," "they" or "them," or might wish to express themselves or self-identify in other ways (e.g., MX. instead or Mr., Mrs., Ms., or Miss, or no prefix at all)." p5
"School forms, websites, letters, and other communications use non-gendered and inclusive language (e.g., parents/guardians, caregivers, families, partners, "student" or "their" instead of Mr., Ms., Mrs., mother, father, him, her, etc.)." p4
"If a human sexuality class is organized by gender, students are able to choose which class they participate in." p8
"Students with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions have a right to accommodation when it comes to the use of washroom and change room facilities that are congruent with their gender identity. This applies during school time and school-related activities on and off school property (such as field trips and athletic events)." p9
If your premise is incorrect, in all likelihood, your conclusions will also be invalid.
It doesn't help when the Ministry double-downs with comments such as "But that protection (religious) has never allowed faith-based edicts to compromise the letter of the law."
The Guidelines do not have the force of law. They are suggestions, and not very good ones either.
A much more interesting and relevant question is what should be done if a law is seriously and fundamentally flawed? For example, Bill 10, in effect, empowers a 12 year old (theoretically), whom society doesn't consider mature enough to get a driver's licence or to vote, to establish education policy without parental involvement, the elected trustees approval and even contrary to the experienced direction of a master teacher or principal. That's simply absurd and it would be immoral to follow such legislation.
Furthermore, all Canadians, including the Ministry of Education, must also be in compliance with the law which goes well beyond Bill 10. The doctrine that Catholic schools are entitled to permeate Catholicity, Catholic teaching and Catholic dogma in all aspects of its curriculum has been specifically recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada in Hirsch (1926), Greater Hull (1984), Greater Montreal (1989), Mahe (1990), and Loyola (2015).
However, this is not just a Catholic issue but a parental issue. The government is engaged in social re-engineering, imposing an ideology and indoctrinating children without parental consultation, input and support.
In conclusion, I would offer this advice to the Minister of Education:
If you encounter a bear on the trail, or in your campsite, stop what you are doing and evaluate the situation. Identify yourself by speaking in a calm, appeasing tone. Back away slowly, preferably in the direction you came. Walk, don't run, and keep your eye on the bear so you can see how it will react. In most cases, the bear will flee - unless it perceives that its cubs are at risk. In that case, … pray!
☩ Frederick Henry
In my recent Pastoral Letter, I wrote that the Alberta Government Gender Guidelines issued on January 13 show no evidence of consultation with, or sensitivity to, the Catholic community. They breathe pure secularism. This approach and directive smack of the madness of relativism and the forceful imposition of a particular narrow-minded anti-Catholic ideology.
If you are reading this piece in the hopes of discovering an apology and/or a retraction, you might as well stop reading right now. That's simply not going to happen.
I have received considerable support for what I said and the way in which I said it. Nevertheless, there were a few "nay-sayers" some have called for my resignation, others have resorted to unpublishable name calling, and of course, there were several references to the famous catch-all these days, "Who are you to judge?" The later suggesting that I was espousing a teaching contrary to the openness of Pope Francis.
In point of fact, Pope Francis has said quite a bit about gender. "The acceptance of our bodies as God's gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home, whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation. Learning to accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element of any genuine human ecology. Also, valuing one's own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different. In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment. It is not a healthy attitude which would seek to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it" [Laudato Si 155].
Furthermore, in Sacred Scripture there are different but interrelated sets of texts about judgment. Without attempting to be exhaustive, there are at least three that are especially noteworthy:
1) Warnings about judgment: "Stop judging that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged...." This is not an injunction against judgment, but a warning that the judgment should be rendered with a good heart free from hypocrisy, arrogance, meanness of spirit, or hate. Consequently, "remove the beam from your own eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother's eye." The principal purpose of a judgment is to help a brother or sister avoid debilitating actions and improve. The awesome burden of judging is the realization that we will be "judged as we have judged." Some cite the incident of the woman caught in adultery and brought to Jesus by those who would stone her as evidence that we should not judge others. Nothing could be further from the truth. The incident manifests God's mercy and loathing of hypocrisy, but he did judge her behavior as evidenced by his admonition: "Go and sin no more."
2) Instances of judgment abound: Peter to Simon the magician "...for your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness of yours... for I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and the chain of wickedness" [Acts 8: 20-23]. Paul to Elymas, "you son of the devil, you enemy of all that is right, full of every sort of deceit and fraud. Will you not stop twisting the straight paths of the Lord?" [Acts 13:9-10]; and Paul to Peter, "But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he clearly was wrong" [Gal 2:11].
3) Cautions particularly to overseers or leaders about judgments: "Thus says the Lord: you, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel; when you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me if I tell the wicked, 'oh, wicked one, you shall surely die,' and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked one from his way, he shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death. But if you warn the wicked, trying to turn him from his way, and he refuses to turn from his way, he shall die for his guilt, but you shall save yourself" [Ezekiel 33: 7-9].
Paul's advice to Timothy is difficult for some of us: "Avoid foolish and ignorant debates, for you know that they breed quarrels. A slave of the Lord should not quarrel, but should be gentle with everyone, able to teach, tolerant, correcting opponents with kindness. It may be that God will grant them repentance that leads to knowledge of the truth, and that they may return to their senses out of the devil's snare, where they are entrapped by him, for his will" [2 Tim 2: 23-26].
Only God can judge the state of the human soul but it is pure nonsense to suggest we cannot and should not judge human behaviour. Reluctance to judge moral behaviour is the inevitable consequence of moral relativism and moral subjectivism that has eroded confidence in the ability to determine objective moral truth on which sound judgment is based.
The last word on this subject belongs to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI: "How many winds of doctrine we have known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking. The small boat of thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves thrown from one extreme to the other.... Every day new sects are created and what Saint Paul says about human trickery comes true, with cunning which tries to draw those into error [cf Ephesians 4, 14].
Having a clear Faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labelled today as a fundamentalism. Whereas, relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and 'swept along by every wind of teaching,' looks like the only attitude acceptable to today's standards. We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires. However, we have a different goal: the Son of God, true man. He is the measure of true humanism. Being an 'Adult' means having a faith which does not follow the waves of today's fashions or the latest novelties.
A faith which is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ is adult and mature. It is this friendship which opens us up to all that is good and gives us the knowledge to judge true from false, and deceit from truth" [Way of the Cross in 2005 for Good Friday].
☩ Frederick Henry