In Memory of Monsignor Vincent Foy

Monsignor Vincent Foy went to his eternal rest  on March 13, 2017.  The oldest priest in the Archdiocese of Toronto, Monsignor  Foy was a courageous defender of the Catholic Faith who wrote about Humanae Vitae, the Winnipeg Statement, the abuse of receiving Holy Communion in the hand, liturgical abuse and Catholic education.

In 2014, on the occasion of his 75th anniversary of ordination, I had the great privilege of interviewing him for Catholic Insight Magazine which is no longer in publication or accessible online. The article, Courageous Words of Wisdom from Monsignor Vincent Foy, appeared in print and online and is reprinted here.

Courageous words of wisdom from Monsignor Vincent Foy

      Monsignor Vincent Foy is a retired priest and canon lawyer of the Archdiocese of Toronto. From his website, Selected Writings of Rev..Msgr. Vincent Foy, P.H.,J.C.D., we are given a succinct biography of his many years of service to the Church.

“He was born in Toronto, Ontario on August 14, 1915, second of a family of eight children.  He attended Holy Name Catholic Elementary School and De La Salle High School in Toronto.  In 1933 he entered St. Augustine’s Seminary and was ordained on 3 June 1939 by Archbishop McGuigan.  He was sent for post-graduate studies to Laval University in Quebec City where he took a doctoral course in Canon Law.  In 1942 he was appointed Vice-Chancellor of the Archdicoese of Toronto and Secretary of the Toronto Archdiocesan Matrimonial Tribunal.  In 1947 he was named the Secretary of the new Toronto Regional Tribunal, which he served later as Defender of the Bond and Judge.  In 1957 he was named Presiding Judge of the Regional and Archdiocesan Tribunals.  In the same year he was named a Domestic Prelate by Pope Pius XII.  In a part time capacity for many years he was Director of Catechetics of the Archdiocese of Toronto. He is a founder and honorary member of the Canadian Canon Law Society.

He was named pastor of his natal parish of St. John’s in Toronto in 1966 and was there until 1973.  He then served as pastor of Holy Martyrs Church in Bradford and St. Patrick’s Church in Phelpston.  In 1977 and 1978 he lived in Rome in an advocacy capacity.  He served as chaplain for 25 years of the Pro Aliis Club and was chaplain also of the Legion of Mary, has helped religious orders and convents and been active in other groups including the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars.

Monsignor Foy is the oldest priest in the Archdiocese of Toronto and the only surviving priest of the class of 1939 of St. Augustine’s Seminary.  For decades he has fearlessly articulated and defended the teachings of the Church – in a time of moral and doctrinal chaos in the Church in Canada.  He is best known for his untiring defense of Catholic teachings on marriage and family life, Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae vitae.  His efforts have earned him a Papal Commendation and the Pro-life Man of the Year Award.”

In his clear writing style, Monsignor Foy has defended Magisterial teaching and objected to errors and misinterpretations of Church teaching. His impressive body of work has been published in various publications, including Catholic Insight Magazine. Out of love for Holy Mother Church and for souls, he has written informative articles about liturgical abuses, Humanae Vitae, the Winnipeg Statement, and the state of Catholic education, among others.

Communion in the hand

In 1970, Monsignor Foy wrote to several bishops and cardinals with his concerns and objections regarding receiving communion in the hand. The practice, he argued, was “introduced by deceit in the USA and Toronto.”

In his letter, he recounted that one Canadian bishop who was determined to make communion in the hand the norm wrote an article claiming Pope Paul VI had given this practice his approval. When Monsignor Foy requested the source for that claim, the magazine that published the article admitted they had no source.

Further, he wrote: “It was a source of great concern to countless priests and laity throughout the country to learn that the Canadian bishops had requested and obtained permission for priests to give Communion into the hands of the faithful. To many priests, what was most disturbing was an order to give Communion into the hands of those faithful who wished it.” He added that a statement from the Decree of the Holy See on Administration of Holy Communion, dated 24 June 1969 stated: “in view of the state of the Church as a whole today, this manner of distributing Holy Communion (i.e. on the tongue) must be observed, not only because it rests upon a tradition of many centuries but especially because it is a sign of reverence of the faith toward the Eucharist. The practice in no way detracts from the personal dignity of those who approach this great sacrament, and it is a part of the preparation needed for the most fruitful reception of the Lord’s body.”

The Decree, he objected, was not made readily available to priests in English-speaking Canada and that no open discussions or polls of the clergy or lay faithful were undertaken before introducing Communion in the hand.

He addressed popular arguments that attempted to defend reception in the hand. To those who posited that the early Christians received Our Lord in the hand, he pointed out that reception on the tongue was a progressive change and that “antiquarianism, or going back to the past for the sake of going back to the past, has often been condemned by the Church.” In his response to the point that reception on the tongue or the hand is not important as long as Communion is received reverently, he countered that the priest also had to guard against “negligence or disrespect [of] the Body of Christ.”

The letter voiced concerns regarding abuse of the Holy Eucharist. One of the troubling examples he cited was an incident in which a young boy placed a consecrated Host between pages in a textbook and attempted to leave the church.

His strongest objection was regarding doctrinal accommodation. “The danger lies … in an overly man-centred rather than God-centred emphasis in Eucharistic worship.” He expressed particular concern regarding losing particles of the Holy Eucharist. One bishop told his priests that there was a probability “that Christ [was] not present substantially in minute particles.” Monsignor Foy corrected this error by writing that even the early Church Fathers knew that the Real Presence of Jesus was in the smallest particle.

He was told that there was no need to send his letter because the issue was to be addressed at an already scheduled meeting. However, the bishop who had falsely claimed that Pope Paul VI had given his approval obtained the votes approving Communion in the hand from the other bishops by using the false source.

In a further attempt to stop the erroneous practice, he sent a letter to the American bishops prior to their meeting in November 1972. He re-iterated his concerns and observations.

Monsignor Foy’s words have proven to be prophetic.  His initial conclusions regarding this practice “have been further validated in many ways.”

Other Liturgical abuses

Over his many years as a priest, Monsignor Foy has seen the disastrous effects of other forms of liturgical abuse that have crept into the Church. In a 1997 article for Challenge Magazine and The Roman Catholic Faithful Newsletter, he listed examples of these errors: holding hands during the Our Father, feminist liturgy, liturgical dance, changing, adding or omitting words during the Canon of the Mass, and the reception of Holy Communion by nearly all because of the mistaken belief that Mass forgives mortal sins. These are only a few examples. He mentioned many others.

In his vigorous defense of the liturgy, he wrote: “The importance of the liturgy, the public worship of the Church, can hardly be exaggerated. The work of the liturgy is our sanctification and salvation. Through it we go from sin to grace, from earth to Heaven.”

The liturgy, he wrote, is so important that it is protected by liturgical law. The authority to uphold this law is divinely delegated and no one on his own authority may change, renew, or add anything in the liturgy.” Furthermore, “all liturgical law is ordained not to unduly restrict freedom of worship, but to enhance it, to ensure both the truth and beauty of public prayer.”

Liturgical abuse, he explained, happens because the abuser feels he must somehow change, add or take away from the liturgy to make it better. It is “a form of Pelegian pride” in which the abuser “sets up his own priesthood in opposition to Christ’s.”

“Abuses are also a form of liturgical nihilism. Humility of worship is replaced by pride, service by disobedience. Scandal replaces edification and the custodian becomes destroyer. What should be a source of grace becomes an occasion of sin; what should be an act of divine love becomes a profound breach of charity.”

Liturgical abuses have had devastating effects in the life of the Church. Monsignor Foy highlighted the four main effects:

“The unity of faith and worship is impaired.” Abuses often instill doctrinal errors in addition to deviating from the rubrics. Also, when sacred images and statues are removed from our churches, devotion to our Blessed Mother and all the Saints decreases.

“Abuses bring with them doctrinal uncertainty.” Some abuses cause Christ to be ignored. Tabernacles that are hidden or difficult to find, not genuflecting as the rubrics indicate, and standing during Consecration are noteworthy. He also listed the abuses of chatting idly or socializing in the church. “To ignore Christ on the altar or in the tabernacle is to treat Him as non-existent.”

“Liturgical abuses cause scandal and bewilderment among the people of God.” Lay people and priests are offended and shocked by liturgical errors. Monsignor Foy gave the example of a married couple who drove fifty miles each Sunday to attend Mass because at their home parish, the priest invited the congregation to recite the words of the Consecration prayer because “you are Church.”

“Liturgical abuses bring ‘a near inevitability of violent reaction.’” People will either suffer in silence, he explained, or they will react with “criticism, anger, resentment, or a deep feeling of betrayal. Some stop going to Mass. Some so criticize the Church that their children lose respect for the religion of their parents and are alienated from the Faith. Every liturgical aberration sets up its own chain of negative reactions by a kind of tragic Newtonian law.”

He pointed out that “liturgical abuses are a form of liberal Catholicism, the great enemy of the Church today. It is a reincarnation of Modernism.” Along with rejecting the Church’s teachings on sexuality, contraception, abortion, and divorce, liberal Catholics reject divinely instituted authority when they abuse the liturgy. “When the sanctuary becomes a site of rebellion against the Church’s authority, the action of Christ as High Priest is diminished or disappears. Empty churches are certain to follow.”

As a good shepherd, Monsignor Foy offered advice to concerned Catholics. “When shepherds will not shepherd, the remedy, an inadequate one, must be found in one’s personal reaction. Some bear with abuses as a cross and penance. Others legitimately go to another parish or to a church of another rite or a Tridentine Mass.” The biggest tragedy occurs when people lose their faith and stop going to church. The responsibility, wrote Monsignor Foy, is not all theirs.

The contraceptive mentality

The largest body of work by Monsignor Foy is in regard to the widespread use of artificial contraception in the Canadian Catholic Church. He wrote about dissent from Humanae Vitae by leading Canadian theologians such as Gregory Baum, David Roy, Andre Guindon, Walter Principe, and Bela Somfai as well as from the Western Canadian Conference of Priests and the Catholic Physicians Guild of Manitoba

In an October 2010 article for Catholic Insight Magazine, he recounted the events that happened in Canada two years before Humanae Vitae and immediately after it was published on 29 July 1968. These events contributed to the widespread use of artificial contraceptives by Canadian Catholics.

Dissent from Magisterial teachings was fueled in part by a 1966 Globe and Mail interview in which theologian Gregory Baum claimed that “the traditional norm had become doubtful and therefore could not be imposed…. Unchecked, a year later, Gregory Baum was saying that even if the Pope came out against artificial contraception, his decision would be irrelevant.” (Globe and Mail, 12 April 1967)

The Winnipeg Statement was published on 27 September 1968. Instead of uniting themselves with Pope Paul VI, the Canadian bishops who were in agreement issued a statement that was “an affirmation and confirmation of all the dissent which preceded it.” Paragraph 26 – the killer paragraph – according to Monsignor Foy, stated in part that “whoever honestly chooses the course which seems right to him does so in good conscience.”

In the same Catholic Insight article, Monsignor Foy’s defense of Humanae Vitae was clear. “The Church teaches that contraception is never licit. It rejects moral relativism and affirms that contraception is intrinsically evil; the prohibition is a moral absolute.”

Throughout the 1980s, he chronicled major statements that came from the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, theologians and priests. These statements upheld the Winnipeg Statement, attacked Humanae Vitae and spread the acceptance of moral relativism.

One of the priests who spread errors regarding the use of artificial contraception was Father Michael Prieur, a professor of Moral and Sacramental Theology at St. Peter’s Seminary in London, Ontario. In a December 1989 article titled “Tragedy at Winnipeg Part II: The Consequences” written for Challenge Magazine, Father Brieur was quoted as saying erroneously: “It (the Winnipeg Statement) is the official teaching of the Magisterium of the Church.” Although doctrinally unsound, Father Prieur’s manual, Married in the Lord, was given an Imprimatur and was recommended by the Ontario Bishops. Father Prieur and others who agreed with him claimed that Humanae Vitae was an “ideal” but Catholics in good conscience could use artificial contraception if they felt justified.

Monsignor Foy wrote: “The Winnipeg error was the key link in a chain which is strangling our beloved Church in Canada.” The links include: disloyalty to the Holy See, spread of the contraceptive mentality, pervasiveness of moral relativism, and dissent.

He continued: “If there was ever an issue on which the laity should speak out respectfully, but with the insistence on being heard, it is the question of erroneous teaching on human life. I believe each of us ought to ask ourselves whether we do not now have that obligation.”

The contraceptive mentality is one of the greatest problems in the Church today, Monsignor Foy observed in a recent interview for Catholic Insight Magazine. Because of it, the Catholic Church in Canada is at a suicidal birthrate. He believes that the pervasiveness of the contraceptive mentality is the reason why there are so few vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

The Winnipeg Statement gives rise to the Fully Alive sex education program

Paragraph 33 in the Winnipeg Statement included a pledge “to the pastoral priority of encouraging and promoting [sex education] programs whenever and wherever possible.” The result of this pledge was the Fully Alive sex education program that is widely used today in Catholic schools.

In 1998, “From Winnipeg to Fully Alive” was published in Challenge Magazine. It was later reprinted as a booklet by St. Joseph’s Workers for Life and Family. In the article, Monsignor Foy criticized the Fully Alive sex education program introduced into Ontario primary separate schools in 1986. Grades one and two began the pilot program in 1986. Over the next few years, subsequent grades were added until the grade eight program was put in place in 1993. The most recent revision of the program was implemented in 2010 – 2011.

Writing against the Fully Alive program, Monsignor Foy stated that “[e]xplicit classroom education victimizes children by its inherent desacralization of sex. Fully Alive is afraid of the words sin and mortal sin. The Church is not. The Church teaches that all deliberate sexual pleasure outside of marriage is gravely sinful. Fully Alive does not know this.” He added that children will become desensitized to “the sacred and private areas of sexuality” and that the program does not “promote vocations to the priesthood and religious life.” As well, he pointed out that the program leaves children more “prone to sexual experimentation.”

Parents, he asserted, are also victimized because they see their children’s innocence “destroyed.” Furthermore, “they are led to believe that Fully Alive has the blessing of the Church.”

Bishops were victimized when they listened to “pedagogical experts,” and a “Bishop’s Committee and a Conference which has misunderstood its function of service.”

Priests, too, are victims as they “recognize this program is an assault on the children in their pastoral care. They ought not to be placed in the position where they must choose between loyalty to their bishop and the Church, whether in the pulpit, the confessional or the classroom.”

Finally, teachers are victims because they are made to teach a course that is “essentially anti-Catholic.” They have not been taught the Magisterial teaching of the Church and have been “victimized by training courses and seminars which endanger their own faith and values as well as those of the children in their care.”

Monsignor Foy recommended that the Fully Alive program be replaced with “teaching and training in chastity and modesty in the context of a better religion course.” Parents, he urged, should remove their children from the Fully Alive program and petition to have it withdrawn.

The state of Catholic education

Monsignor Foy has witnessed many changes in religious education programs in Catholic schools, none of which are for the better. As a former Director of Catechetics for the Archdiocese of Toronto, he has written about the continuing deterioration of Catholic education.

In a February 1995 article for Challenge Magazine, he traced the roots of Catholic education, citing its Magisterial roots and leading to the present day.

Canon Law refers to the teaching vocation as noble. “It is a genuine spiritual paternity and a genuine collaboration in God’s word and that of Christ the Redeemer and the Catholic hierarchy.” Magisterial teaching, explained, Monsigor Foy, specifies that the “teacher must be not only true to the teaching of the Faith but be living that Faith.”

In the 1983 Code of Canon Law, bishops were to have the right to appoint and approve religious education teachers and to remove them, if needed. The bishop had the right to inspect and regulate the Catholic schools under his jurisdiction. Pastors were to supervise the books used in religious education, ensuring that the books and curricula taught nothing contrary to faith and morals.The Catechetical Office, “which is part of the diocesan curia, is the means that the bishop as head of the community and teacher of doctrine utilizes to direct and moderate all the catechetical activity of the diocese (emphasis added [by Monsignor Foy]).”

Since Vatican II, Monsignor Foy stated, “most Catholic schools have been set adrift from the three-tiered control and supervision demanded by the Church…. A considerable number of teachers do not practice their faith and this by their own admission. Dedicated teachers are victims of a system gone awry. The Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association does not hesitate to invite dissident speakers to address its members and write in its magazine and defend teachers who reject essential doctrines.”

He continued:  “Most graduates of our Catholic school system are religiously illiterate. They do not know their Faith, cannot defend it, do not realize it is their most precious possession and are not motivated to explore it more deeply or even to go to Mass or frequent the Sacraments.”

In June 2013, Monsignor Foy wrote “Teilhard de Chardin: Arch-Heretic” for Catholic Insight Magazine. De Chardin denied the Church’s infallible Doctrine of Original Sin and “he did not believe in the supernatural, angels, the devil, or hell.”

Regarding Catholic education, Monsignor Foy’s most urgent concern was that the catechism program in the Catholic schools, known in English first as Come to the Father and later known as Born of the Spirit, are greatly influenced by de Chardin’s errors. “The catechists who composed this catechism were trained in a Catechetical School in Europe in which all the teachers were Jesuit followers of Teilhard de Chardin.” He noted that the “catechism downplays Original Sin and the supernatural, including the existence of hell and mortal sin. As a result, many thousands of Catholic children have become religious illiterates.”

Monsignor Foy believes that saving our Catholic schools from “internal rot’ must come from the Church led by the bishops. The bishop must be in charge of curricula, texts, and teachers through the diocesan catechetical office. Schools ought to be parochial with pastors providing spiritual direction and sometimes teach. “In the end, reform will be precisely as fruitful as our schools are faithful to the Church.”

The grace of redemptive suffering

In a recent Catholic Insight interview, Monsignor Foy shared his thoughts on the meaning of  suffering that is part of life. Suffering, he said, is “a goal and a grace. All the saints suffered a great deal. We are redeemed by suffering. We can obtain a great deal of good by offering up our sufferings and through them we can help the souls in purgatory.”

When asked how to address people who did not believe in the redemptive value of suffering, he counseled that because of free will, we cannot force people to believe in the grace of suffering. “All we can do is pray for them.”

Advice for Catholic families

“Give children a proper example,” Monsignor Foy advised. “That comes first.”

Parents must teach their children the Catholic catechism since it is a good summary of our faith. Concentrate on the essentials; take the Creed and teach it part by part. Our children have to love the Faith enough to die for it; therefore, they ought to be told the lives of the saints who died for their Faith. They have to know and love the Holy Mass and they have to love prayer.

Words of hope and encouragement

Monsignor Foy has lived a great many years and has embraced the gift of his life in Christ.  He has much wisdom and encouragement to offer us. Our hope, he reflects, is “in grace, prayer and example. There is no reason to despair. No one can hurt us but ourselves. All that we can do is tend towards holiness. We are called to holiness. That must be the principal goal of our lives.”

On 3 June 2014, Monsignor Foy will celebrate his seventy-fifth year of ordination to the holy priesthood. His service to the people of the Archdiocese of Toronto and to Holy Mother Church has been exemplary and he continues to be a wonderful role model for other priests.

His body of writing which he has graciously allowed Catholic Insight Magazine to reference, continues to encourage and teach us to properly understand the major concerns facing the Catholic Church in Canada and in the world.

Monsignor Foy’s blog, Selected Writings of Rev. Msgr. Vincent Foy, P.H., J.C.D., contains a wealth of his written work, including the ones used in this article.















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The Catholic Mom’s Guide to (sort of) Keeping It Together


copyright-free photo courtesy of

Every September, Catholic moms brace themselves for the beginning of what seems like non-stop activity: kids in school, extracurricular activities, professional and volunteer commitments. As women and as moms we fill our lives with activities that put other people’s needs ahead of our own. We can’t help it. That’s how God made us. Archbishop Fulton Sheen said that women are endowed with the qualities of “devotion, sacrifice, and love.” We are at our happiest when we express those qualities at home, in the workplace, and in our community.

As a busy mom who juggles professional, family, and parish commitments, I agree with the venerable Archbishop. I know many women who personify the attributes he mentions. I also know that as we give so much to those around us, we neglect ourselves. Self-care is often a forgotten part of our lives.

As a registered nurse, I constantly see what happens when we don’t look after ourselves; and it follows that if we are not at our best physically, mentally, and spiritually, we are not at our best for the people we serve.

Physical wellness

We don’t need to read another article about eating well, exercising, or losing weight. If we’re honest, most of us will admit to multiple failures in these three areas.

Instead of focusing on the number of calories, pounds/kilograms on the scale, or the number of laps on the elliptical, maybe it’s time to focus on why we need to take good care of our body. John Cardinal O’Connor said:

 “God wants to reach out to others through your hands. He wants to speak to others through your lips, and God wants others to look in to your eyes and see Him.”

In other words, God wants us to use our bodies for His work; therefore, we need to be ready for action. A healthy body has energy and enthusiasm to share the Good News.

Mental wellness

Studies show that stress affects the body’s ability to resist infections and is a leading factor in physical and mental illness. While stress itself is not necessarily harmful, the way in which we handle it is important. St. Therese of Lisieux wrote:

“Everything is a direct effect of our Father’s love… difficulties, contradictions, humiliations, all the soul’s miseries, her burdens… her needs… everything because through them, she learns humility and realizes her weakness. Everything is grace because everything is God’s gift. Whatever be the character of life or its unexpected events, to the heart that loves, all is well.”

The Little Flower had a wonderfully healthy attitude regarding life’s ups and downs. She had confidence in Divine Providence and God’s Will for her life. We ought to ask St. Therese to pray for us that we may have her faith and confidence.

Many apostolates would be glad to have extra help. As Catholic moms who love our brothers and sisters in Christ, sometimes we don’t know when to say “no.” Servant of God, Catherine Doherty, used to tell parents that their first responsibility is to their families. Sometimes that means saying “no” to various ministries and volunteer opportunities. We don’t have to feel guilty for turning down a new parish initiative or a committee at our children’s school or homeschooling group. “No” really is a love word.

Gratitude allows us to experience life in all its fullness. Gratitude for life, for each new day, for each new opportunity to serve God in our neighbour makes us aware that each moment is a gift. Each day, write down five things you are grateful for. Ask God to grant you the capacity to be grateful for the smallest, most mundane things of life.

Spiritual wellness

The source of all our peace and strength is contained in the Holy Eucharist and we know that frequent reception is ideal. But teething babies, overactive toddlers,  and the seemingly infinite number of items on our to-do list makes daily Mass and frequent reception of Holy Communion impossible.

In those times when our duties at home and at work prevent us from receiving Communion on days other than Sunday Mass, we can say a short Act of Spiritual Communion:

My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Blessed Sacrament. I love You above all things and I desire You in my soul. Since I cannot now receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. As though Thou were already there, I embrace You and unite myself wholly to You, permit not that I should ever be separated from You.” (St. Alphonsus Ligouri)

Often, short prayers are all we can give to Our Lord. He knows our hearts. He understands our situation. He appreciates our efforts.

Our Blessed Mother was a busy mom as well; but unlike us, she had the grace of being perfectly contemplative as well as perfectly active. As she managed the household without the aid of modern conveniences, she beheld God. As the perfect wife and mother, she wants so much to help us if we let her.

While we don’t have the gift of contemplating the Christ Child in the same way as Mary, we can remember St. Teresa of Avila’s words that “God is in the pots and pans.” He is also in the messy living room, the diaper that needs changing, the crowded commute to work, and the project deadline that is looming too close for comfort. God is with us wherever He has placed us and in whatever work He has given us. We can contemplate Him in our hearts, especially in the most challenging times.

Many times, it feels like there is no end to the demands on our time and energy, but we gladly dig deeper and give what we have. It’s important to keep replenishing our well so that we can be women for others, women for God. The only way to do that is to take the time to look after our physical, mental, and spiritual well being. Starting today.

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Where have I been? An update

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted here. I miss my blogging friends and their  wonderful blogs that enlighten and inspire me to live my Christian faith where God has placed me.

Family life is busy, sometimes rushed, and never boring. Although most of my kids are young adults (and a couple of them do not live at home), the two youngest children still need to be driven everywhere – swimming lessons, music lessons, summer day camps, orthodontist appointments…. you get the picture! Time spent with my family is my first priority.

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By the grace of God, my nursing work has kept me very busy over the last few months. I am very grateful for the work that I do and continue to ask Our Lord to allow me to serve Him in my neighbour through the skills He has given me.

I have accepted an invitation to establish a Parish Nursing ministry at my parish. For now, this is a paid, part-time position but there is so much potential for growth. I am very excited and extremely grateful for this opportunity. I am still working towards certification in Parish Nursing; the Fall semester will include 4 one-day seminar classes and a whole lot of essays (!)

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My husband and I celebrated our thirtieth wedding anniversary in July. To commemorate the occasion, we and most of our children are taking a little holiday on Manitoulin Island, a beautiful area in northern Ontario. For many years, we rented a cottage there with our growing family. On the occasion of our thirtieth anniversary, we are looking forward to peace, quiet, and family time at a spot that holds many happy memories.

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The Catholic Insight website where I also blog is undergoing some changes over the next few months so my work there will be sporadic. For the time being, the Priest Blog at Catholic Insight is still posting thoughtful, informative homilies every Sunday.

But no matter how hectic life gets, there’s always time for Holy Mass,

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Eucharistic Adoration,

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and family prayer.

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Please God, I hope to visit with you all again soon. Take care of yourselves. God bless you and the wonderful way you live out your Christian faith.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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Humanae Vitae and thirty years of marriage

wedding ringsMy husband and I celebrated our thirtieth wedding anniversary earlier this week. Over on my blog at Catholic Insight, I wrote an article on how we have tried to live our married life informed by the teachings of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, Humanae Vitae. Here’s the link if you’d like to read it.

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Faith of our Fathers: the Church militant

ChurchMilitantTen years ago in July 2005, Canada legalized same-sex “marriage.” It took the United States ten years to catch up, but finally this past week, SCOTUS ruled in favour of same-sex “marriage.” We all know that the ruling in both Canada and the United States affects more than homosexual couples wishing to tie the knot. Their insistence that marriage laws and the definition of the family be changed to reflect their values has repercussions that continue to challenge those of us who believe that marriage is between one man and one woman, ordained by God.

When same-sex “marriage” became legal in Canada, marriage commissioners who refused to preside at homosexual weddings were made to resign. A Knights of Columbus chapter in British Columbia was fined $2000 by the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal for refusing to rent their hall for a lesbian wedding reception. People have been fined for expressing their opposition of same-sex “marriage” in letters to the editor and have lost their businesses for refusing to provide services for same-sex weddings. Trinity Western University in British Columbia, a Christian university, is fighting a ruling upheld in several provinces that refuse to accredit their law school graduates. This is because students at Trinity Western are required to abstain  from sexual intimacy “that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.” In Ontario, a new gay-friendly sex education curriculum is being introduced in all publicly funded schools despite massive protests from thousands of concerned citizens.

The United States is just beginning down the road of the destruction of the traditional family and Christian values. The story of the Christian couple in Oregon who lost their bakery and have been ordered not to talk publicly about their religious beliefs because they refused the request of a lesbian couple is just the latest incident. In total, twenty two countries recognize same-sex “marriage.”

The other day, as I was thinking about the increasing attacks on traditional family values and on religious freedom and freedom of speech, the hymn Faith of our Fathers came into my mind. I didn’t know anything about the history of the hymn or its author so I did some research.

Faith of our Fathers was written by Frederick William Faber, a theologian, poet, writer and priest who lived in Victorian England. The son of a Calvinist minister, he was born in Yorkshire, England on 28 June 1814. After serving two years as an ordained minister in the Church of England, he converted to the Roman Catholic Church. With John Henry Newman, he founded the Oratory in London. While Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman went on to establish the Birmingham Oratory, Father Faber remained in London. For his prodigious work, he was granted a Doctor of Divinity degree by Pope Pius IX.

He wrote about anti-Catholic sentiment and increasing secularism even among Catholics of his time. Of Christians abandoning their beliefs in favour of the secular attitude of the day, he wrote that God was “an inconvenience in His own world, an impertinence in His own creation. So He has been quietly set on the side as if He were an idol out of fashion, and in the way. Men of science and politicians have agreed on this and men of business and wealth think it altogether the most decent thing to be silent about God; for it is difficult to speak of Him or have a view of Him without allowing too much of Him.”

In The Creator and the Creature, Father Faber explained that the degeneration of morals and the spread of modern apostasy was  “because mankind has forgotten that we are creatures in need of a Creator.” Mankind, he observed, had embraced the spirit of worldliness: “It is a false faith, a false religion. It does not recognize the right of the Creator, nor occupy itself with the duties of the creature. It begins with self and ends with self, and if compelled to lodge an appeal outside itself, it appeals to the judgments of human respect…. The creature forgets himself and makes himself the standard of truth.”

Father Faber wrote 150 hymns that expressed Catholic beliefs, practices, and history. His most famous hymn, Faith of Our Fathers, was written as a remembrance of the suffering and martyrdom that Britain’s Catholics endured under King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I.

Father Faber could just as well have written about the state of the world today. I wonder if he would be surprised at how deeply the spirit of worldliness has attacked Christian beliefs.  But we can never lose hope because we know that Truth triumphs over evil. And so we continue to humbly and charitably speak the Truth and uphold and defend Christian beliefs. We are the Church Militant.

We must have the kind of faith immortalized in Father Faber’s hymn. We must have faith that is uncompromising, honours the blood of the martyrs who have gone before us, and is willing to say, in utmost charity: No. We will not comply. We will not deny Truth. We will lay down our lives for God and Holy Mother Church.

Faith of our fathers, living still,
In spite of dungeon, fire and sword;
O how our hearts beat high with joy
Whenever we hear that glorious Word!

Faith of our fathers, holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death.

Our fathers, chained in prisons dark,
Were still in heart and conscience free:
How sweet would be their children’s fate,
If they, like them, could die for Thee!


Faith of our fathers, we will strive
To win all nations unto Thee;
And through the truth that comes from God,
We all shall then be truly free.


Faith of our fathers, we will love
Both friend and foe in all our strife;
And preach Thee, too, as love knows how
By kindly words and virtuous life.


The original third stanza reflected Faber’s hope that England would once again be a Catholic country. It was omitted by Faber’s publisher so that the hymn would be acceptable to Protestant denominations.

Faith of our fathers! Mary’s prayers
Shall win our country back to thee;
And from the truth that comes from God,
England shall then indeed be free.

Illustration: Detail of Blessed is the Host of the King of Heaven (alternatively known as Church Militant). Russian icon, ca. 1550 – 1560. Tretyakov Gallery. This icon is traditionally perceived as an allegorical representation of the conquest of the Kazan khanate. In the public domain.

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The Mass as Spectacle

ConsecrationThree weeks ago at Sunday Mass, I spent an hour in total amazement watching how thoroughly Holy Mass can be reduced to a loud, irreverent spectacle.  After many days of replaying the incident in my mind, I managed to put my jumbled, upset thoughts into a blog post. It’s on the Catholic Insight website (here).

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Living Out the Great Commission: Practical Tips to Evangelize our Youth

“It’s very important for parents to remember that, even though God might give you the great responsibility to be the primary educator of your child with regards to the faith, He also gives you the corresponding grace to actually do what must be done.” Fr. Eric Mah is a priest of the Archdiocese of Toronto. His Trinity Sunday homily addresses the important subject of parents’ responsibility to hand on the Catholic Faith to their children.

go and make disciples of all nationsIn today’s Gospel (Mt 28:16-20), we hear what is most commonly known as the so-called “Great Commission”. After the Resurrection, Jesus appears to His disciples and says to them: “Go forth, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19). But we often forget the line which comes immediately afterwards, which gives the first line some context. Jesus says to them: “[Yes], go forth and make disciples of all nations; [but at the same time, teach] them to obey everything that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19-20).

We might say that the Lord is saying to them this: “Yes, introduce these people to the divine life – the life of the Trinity – the life of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit – by introducing them to the grace of the sacraments, whether we’re talking about Baptism, the Holy Eucharist, Confession, or whatever the case might be. But in order that the divine life might take hold, and in order that the grace of sacraments might actually flourish and develop, make sure that these people actually know their faith!” In other words, it’s not enough for people to simply receive “valid sacraments”: they actually have to know how to live their faith in a very real and practical way – lest they actually lose their faith in a matter of time.

To illustrate the point, let me give you an example: imagine a child who is born and then is baptized a few weeks later. This is followed by the important period between the date of the child’s baptism and Grade 2: the year of First Reconciliation and First Communion. Now, the question is this: “What kind of faith formation will this child typically receive during this period of time?” I would suggest something like this: “Be nice. Be kind. Be obedient to your parents. Be obedient to your teachers. Don’t lie. Don’t steal. Be a good little boy or girl.” We might perceive, though, that there’s something lacking with this type of approach: it’s not sufficiently rooted in the Ten Commandments, and it’s not mindful of a certain relationship with God. It’s basically all about trying to be a good citizen in the midst of secular society: there’s nothing really distinctively “Christian” about it. Now, one might say: “Well, that’s just because of their particular age group: they’re just in Grade 2 after all!” And let’s presume that we give you that. And so, the child receives First Reconciliation and First Communion.

But then, what happens after that? This is followed by that crucial period between Grade 2 and Grade 7 or Grade 8: the year when the child receives the Sacrament of Confirmation. What kind of faith formation will the child typically receive during this period of time? I would suggest something not too far off from what he or she received just before: “Be nice. Be kind. Be obedient to your parents. Be obedient to your teachers. Don’t lie. Don’t steal. Be a good person.”

The child then receives the Sacrament of Confirmation. Then the child goes off for further studies, reads a few secular books, meets a few secular friends who perhaps challenge the child very aggressively about his faith. The child begins to question his or her faith. Then eventually, perhaps not right away, the child will probably lose his or her faith. The child might continue a certain superficial practice of the faith: he or she might continue going to Mass on Christmas and Easter, with a few smattering instances of Sunday Mass attendance in between. But for all intents and purposes, he or she will probably become a so-called “practical atheist”.

Why does this happen? Perhaps because somewhere along the line, the child will come to the conclusion that the Catholic faith just isn’t up to much, that it’s too childish, not sufficiently intellectual, and that it’s not sufficiently rooted in right reason to deal with the sophisticated, adult problems that he or she faces every day. And so, perhaps he or she will say to herself: “Well, it’s not as if I really want to stop being a practicing Catholic; but it’s just that my faith seems completely inadequate to deal with the many problems that I’m facing in my everyday, adult life!”

The reality, though, is not that the faith lacks a certain substance: the reality is that the child stopped learning about the faith back when he or she was in Grade 2, if not even before! In other words, the child may have received a number of “valid sacraments” over the course of his or her life, but this was not met with a corresponding growth in knowledge as to how to live the faith in a very real and practical way. And the end result was a total loss of faith. I’m not sure if that’s surprising or shocking, but that I would submit to you is the typical “faith journey” of your average Catholic child living in the world today.

Of course, the question is: “What do we do about it?” To preface everything we’re going to talk about from this point on, it’s very important that we pray, we trust and we believe. In other words, we must always remember that God is ultimately the author of conversion; such that, if a person makes even the slightest movement back towards the Lord, it is always primarily by the grace of God. And so, we must pray, we must offer sacrifice, and we must trust and believe that in the fullness of time, in His own particular way, God can bring anyone back from the brink. Again, no matter what the stage of your child’s faith journey, even if you’re living in an “empty nest” situation, it is very important that you pray, trust and believe.

family rosaryBut what might we do on a practical basis to actively cooperate with God’s grace? I would recommend three things. First of all, parents must always remember that they are the primary educators of their kids with regards to the faith (cf. CCC 2221). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had parents come up to me and say: “You know, Father, I really wish someone would talk to my kids about the Catholic faith!” Quite honestly, I say to myself many times: “Well, how about you?” Now, I appreciate the value of sometimes having a third party talk with your kids about the Catholic faith; and so, if you want me to talk to your kids, I’ll talk to your kids! But the whole point is that parents simply cannot abdicate their responsibility to be the primary educators of their kids with regards to the Catholic faith.

Now, there might be any number of interested parties or groups, such as the government, Catholic school teachers, youth ministers or even Catholic priests, but these groups and persons are meant to help, they’re meant to assist, but they’re never meant to replace. Parents are always meant to be the primary educators of their kids with regards to the faith.

These persons or groups might know more than you about the Catholic faith. And so, if you find that you have certain gaps in your knowledge of the faith, you should definitely take the appropriate steps to rectify the situation, perhaps by reading, for example, the Catechism of the Catholic Church  or the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, both of which are readily available free of charge on the Vatican website.

But there is always something very special and unique about the parent/child relationship which simply cannot be duplicated in any other relationship in the modern world. When mom or dad says to their child: “Do this. Don’t do that. This is right. This is wrong. This is true. This is false,” the child receives that information and is transformed by it in a way that simply cannot be duplicated in any other relationship in modern society. It’s very important for parents to remember that, even though God might give you the great responsibility to be the primary educator of your child with regards to the faith, He also gives you the corresponding grace to actually do what must be done.

The second point is this: repetition, repetition, repetition. A few years ago at my last parish, a parent came up to me and started giving me tips about how to visit the schools. She basically said: “Father, when you visit the kids in the schools, you really have to teach them how to go to the Sacrament of Confession – and not just once! You have to teach them over and over again, because that’s how they learn to really appropriate the concept!” I remember thinking to myself: “Well, yeah, you’re right! But don’t put this primarily on me! This is primarily on you as the primary educator!”

child in confessionI’ve gone to the schools many times to teach them how to receive the Sacrament of Confession. But I believe I speak for priests everywhere when I say that a constant source of frustration for all of us is that, when we go to the schools to hear kids’ confession, many times they don’t know the Act of Contrition; and many times, they actually get up to leave before you can say the words of absolution! Think of it like this: if you go to Confession and you don’t expect to say “sorry” and you don’t expect to be forgiven for your sins by Christ through the words of the priest, then what’s your notion of Confession? Confession becomes an empty ritual! And what’s the grace that one obtains in that situation? I would submit: not that much!

That’s the great value of repetition! In the case of the Sacrament of Confession, for example, the point is to not simply develop a “basic familiarity” with the ritual, but to actually make going to Confession normative – such that Confession stops being a “weird thing” that we do, perhaps, once or twice in our whole life; but rather, it becomes something that we’re just completely familiar with because it’s something we just talk about all the time as a Catholic family, and it’s something that we actually do all the time as a Catholic family!

Obviously, we can’t talk to someone in Gr. 2 in the same way that we’d talk to someone in Gr. 8. We have to tailor our message to the particular age group that we’re addressing. But, again, that’s the great value of repetition! Because, even though we might be talking about the same topic repeatedly, we can approach it from several different angles depending on with whom we are speaking.

For example, let’s consider the Fifth Commandment: “Thou shall not kill”. If you’re talking to your toddler, you wouldn’t want to lead by talking about murderous psychopaths roaming the countryside! That’s just not prudent, and it’s probably just bad parenting! Perhaps what you might do instead is to speak, at least indirectly, about the dignity of the human person (cf. CCC 1700). You might begin by talking about how everyone comes from God, and is ultimately destined to return to God (cf. CCC 1700). And what this means is that everyone is special: everyone deserves respect. This might lead to a discussion of what it means to actually treat people with dignity and respect, and what it means to treat even yourself with dignity and respect.

Later on, you might talk about self-defence. You might say: “Yes, if someone attacks you with physical aggression, it is a legitimate thing in certain cases to defend yourself even using physical force” (cf. CCC 2263). But, at the same time, you might bring in issues of proportionality (cf. CCC 2267) or proximity (cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, ST II-II.64.7). Later on, you might start bringing up certain “hot topic” issues like euthanasia (cf. CCC 2276-2279), abortion (cf. CCC 2270-2275) and suicide (cf. CCC 2280-2283). And after that, you might bring up more complex topics like the principle of “double effect”, formal vs. material cooperation or the “just war” theory (cf. CCC 2309). In every instance, we’re still talking about the Fifth Commandment; but every time, we’re doing so in such a way that is appropriate to the particular age of the child that we’re dealing with. And so, again: repetition, repetition, repetition.

The third and final point is perhaps the most important one: live the integrated life. For example, I remember years ago reading about a study that dealt with the question of what was most influential in the formation of children’s particular notion of sexual morality (cf. Ford, 2005). You might expect that a study like this would simply say that parents were most influential in the formation of their kids’ opinions with regards to sexual morality, as opposed to friends or teachers; and it certainly said that. But the study went one step further by suggesting that what was most influential in the formation of kids was not so much what parents said; but rather, it was what parents actually believed! In other words, if parents talked to their kids without really believing what they actually said, the implication was that their kids might listen politely to what their parents were saying, but they wouldn’t ultimately be changed. On the other hand, if the parents actually believed what they were saying, and this was backed up by what they actually did, then their kids would be changed. Then they would be transformed!

conversion of St. PaulOne of the best examples of this is to reflect on the life of St. Paul. As you might recall, St. Paul often said that he “preached nothing but Christ crucified” (cf. 1 Cor 1:23; 2:2). And there are moments in his letters when St. Paul was merely raising the historical fact that Christ suffered and died on the Cross, and then came back from the dead. We’re certainly not discounting any of that. But, if we really want to understand what St. Paul means when he says that he “preached nothing but Christ crucified”, we have to look back on who he was before his conversion: back when he was known merely as “Saul”. Because, when he was simply “Saul”, St. Paul was not a good person; he was actually a very evil, wicked person. He was actively involved in the work of genocide because he was killing the early Christians (cf. Acts 9-1-2)!

But then, what happened? He encountered the crucified Christ on the road to Damascus who said to him: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me” (Acts 9:4). That’s when he started to become this person who was all about love, communion and personal sacrifice. That’s when he started to become the so-called “Apostle to the Gentiles”!

At a priest seminar a few years ago, I heard a great analogy which underlined this point about St. Paul. And so, the speaker said: imagine if someone like Adolf Hitler or Saddam Hussein (people who were actively involved in mass genocide) had a massive conversion experience, turned from their evil ways, and then started preaching all about love, communion and personal sacrifice – and then even wrote a sonnet about love that would be used in weddings throughout the world and throughout human history!

Well, that’s St. Paul! “Love is patient, love is kind…” (cf. 1 Cor 13:4-8). When people saw this, they would remember: “Hey, weren’t you the guy who used to go around killing Christians?” But then they would see that he was now completely different. And so, at the very least, they would listen to him, not so much because of what he said, but because of who he was! In other words, they would listen to him because of his integrated sense of Christian witness. That’s the value of living the integrated life.

I realize that there’s a lot here for us to consider. But if we can try to implement even a few of these points: to remember that parents are the primary educators of their kids; to remember the value of repetition; and to remember the value of living the integrated life, then we can go a long way towards building up the Christian family; and thereby, at least begin to “Christianize” modern society.

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Enthroning the Sacred Heart of Jesus in our Families

sacred-heart-tinToday is the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Enthroning the Sacred Heart of Jesus in our families is one of the best things we can do. Two years ago, with the help of a friend who is a priest, we enthroned Jesus’ Sacred Heart in our family.  I wrote about it (here) on my blog at Catholic Insight.

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Bishop Athanasius Schneider – Holy Communion on the Tongue

As Dominus est - it is the Lordwe prepare to celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi this Sunday, June 7, 2015, I am re-linking to my Catholic Insight article on why Holy Communion should be received on the tongue. The article is based on Bishop Athanasius Schneider’s important book, Dominus Est – It Is The Lord, in which Bishop Schneider explains why the reverent reception of Holy Communion on the tongue is necessary to the life of the Catholic Church.

Here’s the link to the article:

Schneider, A. (2008). Dominus Est – It is the Lord! Reflections of a Bishop of Central Asia on Holy  Communion. New Jersey: Newman House Press.

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Charlie Charlie: a wake-up call for sobriety

St. Michael the ArchangelI had a talk with my teen-aged kids about the Charlie Charlie craze that has spread throughout social media in epidemic proportions. Charlie Charlie is the “poor man’s Ouija Board” that summons a Mexican demon who answers participants’ questions, much like a Ouija Board. Until I explained how Satan deceives us with his lies, they thought the Charlie Charlie Challenge was just an innocent game.

After speaking with my kids, I wrote about Charlie Charlie on my blog at Catholic Insight. I invite you to read it here.

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