By Most Rev. Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton

Sunday, September 27, 2015

What a Week!!!

I've been in Philadelphia since last Monday for the World Meeting of Families. This event happens every three to four years and draws families from around the world. Registration for this one was about 25,000 people - very enthusiastic and joyful people! It was the joy of being together with fellow Catholics to thank God for the gift of family, to celebrate it, and to commit to be heralds of the wondrous and beautiful plan of God for the family.

The joy was given especially intense expression with the arrival of Pope Francis. His participation in this World Meeting was the principal reason for his visit to the United States. Yet, as you know, some extraordinary events preceded it. I followed it on TV as much as possible, and was really moved by the warm and enthusiastic reception he was given. Especially touching were his moments with children, the sick and the prisoners.

Yet it was only when we found ourselves in his presence that we experienced the power of his person. Even when I had no access to a TV monitor to follow his progress, I could tell where he was just by the enormous cheers as he drew near.

Many ask the reason for this powerful reaction to Pope Francis. Certainly his personality touches hearts. He personifies tenderness, and thus makes tangible the gentle mercy of God. Yet a passage from the Acts of the Apostles leads us to deeper appreciation. Consider the account at Acts 5:12-17. There we read of people bringing the sick to the Apostles for healing, and hoping in particular that "the shadow of Peter" might fall on them and they be cured. The Pope is the Successor of St Peter. When we draw near to him we are experiencing "the shadow of Peter" falling across us. The many TV images we saw are clear proof that the hearts of many were healed through this encounter.

And more - many more - will be healed if we commit to reach out to troubled families with the beauty and truth of the Gospel. This will be the heart of the discussions about to take place at the upcoming Synod on the Family, for which I leave this week in order to take part. Please keep in prayer me and the other approximately 300 Bishops who will gather in Rome for this event.

As Pope Francis reminded us Saturday evening, when God became one of us in Jesus Christ, he entered a family. Jesus continues to dwell in the hearts of families who call upon him. May we all rediscover - and live - the gift of family life as intended by God. This will renew our families and thus our society as well.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Make an Issue of It!!

To my mind, the most remarkable aspect of the present federal election campaign is the silence surrounding an issue which threatens our common life together as Canadians in profoundly harmful ways. That issue is physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Last February the Supreme Court of Canada declared the practices legal (!!!!) and gave the federal Parliament one year to produce legislation to accord with its decision. This is a change of seismic proportions to our laws protecting the vulnerable, a change that, in effect, does not protect the weak but instead deepens their vulnerability. Yet we hear nothing about it on the campaign trail! Gathered in plenary assembly last week, the Bishops of Canada gave voice to their astonishment at the lack of attention being given to this issue, and called upon all Catholics to make their voices heard and challenge the candidates on their position.

I echo the call. We must not be silent. When the SCC first rendered its judgement, I offered a statement in response, which can be found here. The statement issued last Friday by the Bishops of Canada can be found here. I invite you to review these statements and then contact those who are running for office. Let them know that what the Supreme Court has declared legal remains morally unacceptable. Call upon them to give full protection to the weak and vulnerable. Demand as well protection for the full conscience rights of medical professionals who may be pressured to kill another human being.

The situation before us is that we are now able to kill instead of care. Let's not stand for this, but stand instead for the protection of all human life from its beginning to natural end.

Monday, September 7, 2015

We Need Help to Change

On Sunday I joined with the Vietnamese Catholics of Queen of Martyrs parish to celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving for their new Church. Acquired from a parish that had previously called it home, the Church has now been beautifully transformed inside. From the outside it looks the same as it has for many years. Inside the change is quite dramatic.

I suggested to the people gathered for Mass that this is reflective of what the Lord wishes to bring about in all of us - interior transformation. We might look the same externally, but a new heart is given to us whenever we encounter Jesus Christ and allow him to bring about change within. We shall see things differently and relate to both persons and events in new ways. Thus will an interior change cause a ripple effect of transformation around us.

And, oh, how such change is desperately needed! In school visits I meet young - very young - students struggling with anxiety and depression. Threats continue to mount everywhere against the dignity of human life from beginning to natural end. In my city, and countless others, families are hurting from poverty and violence. Especially traumatic these days is the heartrending plight of millions of displaced persons who have fled from violence in Syria and elsewhere, many hundreds of thousands of whom are on the move toward what they hope will be a better life. This cannot be our status quo!!!!! Change must come!

But how? Change will happen when we allow ourselves to be changed. I'm using the passive voice here deliberately. It is clear that we are unable to change ourselves. We need to be changed. And that is precisely what the Lord Jesus wants to bring about. The lesson of the Gospel of Sunday is that we are called to bring to Jesus our inability to change and ask him to bring about the needed transformation of our hearts. The Gospel account centres upon an encounter between Jesus and a man who is deaf and unable to speak. Clearly, the man is incapable of changing his inabilities. When he comes to Jesus, though, the change happens; it is the Lord who opens his ears and unstops his tongue.

In so many ways the world has grown deaf to the Word of God. We listen to voices that keep us centred upon ourselves and ignorant of the needs of others. In countless circumstances where we have the opportunity to speak only what is good and helpful, to defend what we know to be true from our faith, do we instead find our tongues silent, made mute by fear of being ridiculed for our belief.

As Jesus said to the deaf man may he say today to us: Ephphatha! Be opened! Open Lord, our ears, eyes and hearts, set free both our minds and our tongues, transform us entirely from within, so that we may be agents of the transformation you will to bring about throughout the world.