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

Friday, February 12, 2016

Filled with Pride

 I'm so proud of them!

Yesterday we held a press conference at our Archdiocesan offices to launch the statement of the Alberta Bishops pertaining to the legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia. Joining me were Mr. Austin Mardon, a man who has many times over the years spoken publicly about his schizophrenia, and Mr. Mark Pickup, who has done the same with respect to the MS that limits his mobility and confines him to a wheelchair. 

Their words to the media were very moving and compelling, as they shared their love for life and decried these practices which convey a message that the life of people who suffer or are disabled is less worthy of living than that of others. Also present were Dr. Matthew Meeuwissen and Dr. Magdalena Michalska. Their words drew our attention dramatically to the terrible impact legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia has on those involved in healthcare and on the institution itself. These ways of ending life are the antithesis of medicine. Healthcare workers now find themselves at serious risk of being pressured to act contrary to both the Hippocratic oath and their conscience.

It is not easy to stand before the media and say these things. What impressed me deeply was that, in spite of trepidation, they stood up to stand out, and they spoke truth. Their conviction was so deep that they felt they could not do other than speak out, regardless of how they might be received. I feel immensely proud of them.

Let's follow their example. As we began on Ash Wednesday the season of Lent we heard St Paul tell us we are ambassadors for Christ. Ambassadors are spokespersons, and spokespersons speak. When we speak for life, we speak for Christ, who gave his own life to affirm the inherent dignity of every human life. When that dignity is attacked or threatened, as it clearly is with assisted suicide and euthanasia, we must, as ambassadors, not remain silent. So, too, must we stand with our physicians, nurses, pharmacists and other healthcare workers and stand up for the protection of their right to freedom of conscience.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Thursday's Paper Wraps Friday's Fish

That's an expression I grew up with in Nova Scotia. We ate fish on Friday's (I still do). The expression comes from the practice of wrapping leftovers in the newspaper of the day before and then throwing the lot out. It captures well the passing nature, the relative unimportance in the overall scheme of things, of much of what we get excited about at any given moment. What makes headlines one day is often quickly forgotten and discarded by the next.

Lent begins on Wednesday of this week. This is a sacred time to focus on what is, in fact, of lasting - indeed, everlasting - importance. In this sacred time we ponder what matters, and ask for the grace to let go of those attachments which don't.

What matters is Jesus, and our relationship with him. On Sunday we heard St. Paul put it this way: "I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve." Christ crucified and risen! Now THAT'S a headline, meant to stay always on the front page of our minds and reflect accurately the news we make of our lives.

Last week, in the course of a visit to a group of adults preparing to become Catholic at Easter, I discussed with them the meaning of Lent and how we observe it. Our discussion at one point revolved around the questions of what to give up and take up. We talked about how we have to recall, before all else, what is "of first importance": who Jesus is and who we are called to be in him. In this light, we can ask the Holy Spirit to help us discern what unholy attachments need to be abandoned (what do I give up for Lent?), and what do I need to begin doing (what do I take up?) in order to live more faithfully as a disciple (prayer, almsgiving, good example, etc.).

In these days prior to Ash Wednesday, let this be our prayer. Let's ask the Holy Spirit, first of all, to help us know and preserve what is of first importance, and thus enable us to see the change being asked of us. May the season of Lent be a time of genuine conversion and renewal for us all.