All posts by Fr. Jim

Greetings from Archbishop Don for the 2nd Week of Lent

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ in the Archdiocese, and all tuning in for this message for the second week of Lent, warm greetings.

Thankfully, our polar vortex is behind us now. The word Lent comes from the old English word ‘Lenten’, which means Spring. In this province Spring comes slowly, and that serves as a good metaphor for Lent, and the slow transformation of ourselves into people of the Kingdom. In the early church, the desert fathers and mothers went to live in the wilderness in order to open themselves completely to the transformative grace of God in their lives. They called the desert the furnace of transformation. That’s also a good image for Lent.

We view Lent, among other things, as a time of sacrifice, and we prayerfully ponder what we are going to give up for Lent. That is good and right, but the readings from the second Sunday of Lent put the whole question of sacrifice into a larger framework. And they also give us a window into the transformation that God desires for us.

The first reading for this coming Sunday, from the book of Genesis, tells the story of Abraham bringing Isaac up the mountain, where he has been asked to sacrifice his son. A few chapters earlier in the Book of Genesis, we hear the beautiful account of God bringing Abraham outside at night and asking him to look up at the sky and count the stars if he can – which of course he can’t – and then says, so shall your descendants be. Abraham’s wife Sarah was without child. When the whole thing seemed pretty much hopeless, Abraham being 100 years old and Sarah 90, Sarah bore a child. And they called him Isaac, which means laughter, because they were so taken by surprise. So Isaac was not only Sarah and Abraham’s beloved child, he was also the visible sign, the testimony that God’s promise would hold true. There would be no descendants without Isaac.

Of course God intervenes, Isaac is saved, and Abraham is praised for his trust, and God provides an offering for the sacrifice. The story in its origins was probably intended to show, among other things, that the God of Abraham did not desire the child sacrifice practiced by some neighbouring religions. I once had the opportunity to hear an inter-faith discussion about this passage, as it is of great importance to Jews and Muslims as well as to Christians. The different schools of interpretation of this story make for a fascinating conversation.

But for us on this second Sunday of Lent, the Abraham and Isaac story is linked to two other readings. In today’s Gospel, we hear Mark’s account of the transfiguration. Jesus and his disciples are on the road to Jerusalem, and he has been telling them that he is going to be put to death, and that he will rise again. They are bewildered and frightened. Then he takes three of them, Peter, James and John, up the mountain. Like the first reading, it’s on the mountain that something new is being revealed about God. For a brief moment, the disciples see Jesus in dazzling light, speaking with the great prophets of the past, Moses and Elijah. Here is the one they have been following, now seen as the fulfillment of their deepest hopes. They hear the voice of God saying ‘this is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.’ Peter wants to hold on to the experience, wants to build tents for them, wants it to last. It doesn’t last. But it gives them a glimpse of what is to come, and perhaps the strength to live through the passion and crucifixion of Jesus without losing all hope.

In the second reading, one of the most important passages of the entire New Testament, St Paul, with the story of the sacrifice of Isaac in mind, and above all with the death and resurrection of Christ in mind, writes to the Romans and asks rhetorically, if God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him? Paul will go on to offer us two great litanies to communicate how nothing can get in the way of God’s love for us revealed in Jesus Christ.

Let’s go back to where we started to the question of sacrifice, and the matter of our transformation. In the history of religion, there are numerous stories of people offering sacrifices to God that bring reconciliation and God’s blessing. But the Christian vision is different. God is the key actor. On the cross, God is the one who offers God’s own self, in the person of Jesus, to heal the broken relationship. As we pray at Mass, Christ became “the Priest, the Altar and the Lamb of sacrifice.” It’s not ultimately about what we sacrifice in order to win God’s pleasure, it’s about embracing the wonderful gift of God’s own self, and being transformed by that.

The transformation that the season promises is a paschal transformation. God draws us into his dying and rising, and invites us to live in the freedom of those who in turn can spend ourselves at the service of others, because we are loved by a boundless unimaginable love.

Friends, please join me in praying the Peace Prayer of St Francis of Assisi, who grasped at a very deep level the change that God desires for us:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offence, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring your light.

O Master, let me not seek as much
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love,
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in self-forgetting that we find,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
it is in dying that we are raised to eternal life.

Video Message found here

Opinion: Churches working to help in COVID-19 fight, but need common sense from government

Opinion: Churches working to help in COVID-19 fight, but need common sense from government

by Brett Salkeld, PhD, theologian for the Archdiocese of Regina.

It is difficult for religious communities to push common sense while following safety protocols that are anything but, writes Brett Salkeld.

To any person who goes to church Sunday morning these days after shopping Saturday afternoon, the dramatic difference between the safety protocols observed at the grocery store or pharmacy and those observed at the church is jarring. There have been times when I have gotten home from the store thinking, if I get COVID, I’m pretty sure that trip was where I got it.

The feeling I have at church is precisely the opposite. We are so meticulously safe, so masked, so distanced, so disinfected that it seems highly unlikely anyone could contract the virus from attending the service while we adhere to best practices.

When I go to church, large sections of my small local parish are roped off. With only 30 people allowed to attend, we are able to appropriately distance in a fraction of our building. My heart breaks to watch our pastor having to turn people away at the door due to some confusion about sign-ups and capacity while there are dozens of empty pews sitting unused.

Last spring, after leading with a hard-cap policy as regards the number of people permitted in places of worship, the Government of Saskatchewan met with faith leaders and subsequently adopted a very reasonable policy based on percentage of building capacity. Small country churches that rarely accommodate more than 30 people on a given Sunday are not the same thing as large city congregations whose buildings often hold more than 1,000. Having the same limit apply to both these scenarios made no sense, and the government was correct to adjust policy accordingly.

But in mid-December, the government reverted to its original policy without explanation or consultation. Since that time, faith leaders across the province have been pushing, unsuccessfully, for a return to a percentage of capacity policy, one commensurate with what businesses are currently allowed.

Many have remarked upon the value of religion for society, especially in times of crisis. When people are lonely or afraid or looking for answers, the wisdom and the community of our religious traditions can be a lifesaver. What has not been as widely noted is the role of most religions in protecting people from extremism, polarization and conspiracy theories.

On top of the viral pandemic, we are also facing a virtual pandemic, one consisting of online misinformation and moral panic. And this second pandemic is amplifying the death count of the first. It is a genuine threat to public health, to say nothing of political stability and our capacity to live together as communities.

In the face of what some have called an “infodemic,” a good chunk of our work at the Archdiocese of Regina these days is to direct our people to reliable sources, to encourage best practices with respect to public health — not only in our parishes, but in the wider world — and to reassure people of the basic wisdom of public health measures. This is largely a thankless task, one that earns us charges of failing in our duty to defend the Church against government, which is imagined to be using the pandemic as a pretext to strip believers of their rights and freedoms.

The best strategies for promoting public health have recognized the need to work with and not against religious communities. After all, we share the same goal of protecting our communities, especially the vulnerable, from disease and death. But the current policy of the Saskatchewan government puts religious authorities in a very awkward position.

Churches are required to enforce inconsistent protocols on behalf of the government that give those in our communities who are already suspicious of the government’s motives all the evidence they need to not trust public health measures — not to mention more motivation to pursue ever wilder and more conspiratorial claims on social media. The anxiety and distress this leads to is itself becoming a public health crisis, to say nothing of the fact that such people are often highly suspicious of any vaccination campaign to end the pandemic.

It is time for the government to recognize that, not only are the current restrictions on places of worship inconsistent, but that such inconsistency is itself a threat to public health. It is increasingly difficult for religious communities to encourage common sense while they are required to follow and enforce safety protocols that are anything but.

Brett Salkeld is the theologian for the Archdiocese of Regina.

Archbishop Don’s Lenten Message

Greetings, brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Ash Wednesday, as we embark on the Lenten journey.

The season of Lent provides us with 40 days to let God’s transforming grace into our lives in a new way, so that we might live more deeply, more faithfully, with greater joy, hope, conviction and compassion. I think most of us would acknowledge that there’s lots of room for growth in that regard in our lives.

In preparation for this week’s message, one of my working group colleagues mentioned the film Groundhog Day, which I went back to watch, after many years. The film is something of a parable about moral growth. The main character, at the start of the film, is something of a scoundrel, completely self-centered, arrogant and obnoxious, and on the first day of the film, Groundhog Day, he acts like a complete jerk. The next morning when he wakes up, he discovers, to his complete bewilderment, that he has woken up to the same day all over again. No one else is reliving that day, but he is. This happens over and over again through the film, presumably thousands of times. He keeps living the same day over and over again, and only he is aware of that. He is able to change the decisions he makes each day, and to see the consequences of those decisions. At the start, once he has gotten past the bewilderment with what is happening, he uses the information from previous days for his own selfish ends. Seeing the futility of it all, he falls into a kind of a depression, and tries to end it all. That doesn’t work. He keeps waking up to Groundhog Day. Eventually he starts to have some empathy for others, and slowly starts to move out of his self-centredness, and to use what he has learned to start helping others. Finally, finally, he lives the day well enough that when he wakes up, it’s actually February 3rd.

The film is based on a simple clever hypothesis: what if we would live the same day over and over again until we got it right, until we lived it well. We don’t, life isn’t structured that way. But life is structured in such a way that each new day we get a chance to begin again, to try to live better. In some sense, God has structured the human condition in such a way that we are invited to learn from each previous day and to grow in wisdom, compassion, holiness, hope and joy.

That takes us back to the season of Lent, 40 days to give particular focus to God’s transformative desires for us, and the need to open to that grace. In a recent reflection, our Archdiocesan theologian Brett Salkeld noted that the biblical focus on 40 – 40 days after the flood, Israel wondering 40 years in the desert, Jesus praying 40 days in the wilderness – is likely connected to the reality that 40 is the number of weeks a human child gestates in its mother’s womb. Brett notes that when the Bible uses the number 40, it is telling us that something is gestating, something new is preparing to be born. That’s a good mindset for us at the start of the season of Lent. What is God trying to bring to birth in us?

In the film Groundhog Day, the character has a seemingly endless opportunity to make changes, to live better. We have been given time by God. As Annie Dillard notes, time is one thing “we have been given, and we have been given to time. [And] time gives us a whirl.” But time is not endless, and our opportunities to make changes are not endless. Listen to this insightful quote from the novel The Sheltering Sky, by Paul Bowles, who writes:

“Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that’s so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. Perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.”

Time is not endless. One thing Jesus seems to insist upon with his disciples is that the time for change, for conversion, for holiness, is now. His opening proclamation in Mark’s Gospel is this: the Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, that is, change your ways, and believe the good news.

So as we embark on this season of Lent, I think we do well to acknowledge that we need Lent, we need a time of renewal, we need God, we need mercy. Lent begins by being signed with ashes, in the form of a cross, though this year, because of pandemic protocols, the ashes will be gently dropped on us. But you can imagine them in the form of a cross on your forehead. The ashes are a sign of our woundedness, a reminder of the reality of death, of brokenness, of things falling apart. A reminder of our society as it is… ourselves as we are, beneath the facades of wellness and wholeness.

Lent doesn’t leave us in ashes. It moves us towards resurrection. It moves us towards God’s ability and desire to turn our darkness into light, our selfishness into other-centredness, our sinfulness to holiness – if and as we open ourselves to God’s redeeming grace. So let us embark upon this season not with fear and trepidation, but with a sense of relief, a sense of awakening to the need for real change, and a trust in God’s merciful desire to bring about that change, in us, and in our communities.

In each weekly Lenten message, I will draw on a prayer or two from our tradition, and in this first Lenten reflection, I would invite you to listen to the words, addressed to God, from the Preface to the first Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation, which can be used all year round, but is especially timely for Lent:

O God, “you do not cease to spur us on to possess a more abundant life and, being rich in mercy, you constantly offer pardon and call on sinners to trust in your forgiveness alone. Never did you turn away from us, and, though time and again we have broken your covenant, you have bound the human family to yourself through Jesus your Son, our Redeemer, with a new bond of love so tight that it can never be undone. Even now you set before your people a time of grace and reconciliation, and, as they turn back to you in spirit, you grant them hope in Christ Jesus and a desire to be of service to all, while they entrust themselves more fully to the Holy Spirit.”

Let’s end with the Anima Christi:

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.
O Good Jesus, hear me.
Within your wounds hide me.
Permit me not to be separated from you.
From the wicked foe, defend me.
At the hour of my death, call me
and bid me come to you
That with your saints I may praise you
For ever and ever. Amen.

Watch video message HERE

Ash Wednesday schedule

Ash Wednesday • February 17th
Mass with the Distribution of Ashes
7:30 AM • 12:05 PM • 5:10 PM
Pre-Registration for Parishioners after this weekend’s Masses
or by calling the Parish office during the week.
Registration for others begins February 12th
.

Letter from Father Jim

A pdf of this letter is available here

Dear Parishioners,

I want to share my words of gratitude to all of you, parishioners of Blessed Sacrament Parish. These have been challenging times for all of us but I have experienced your love and support in the midst of these difficulties. Even if you have not been able to join the community in the Eucharist over the past months, each of us has come to know the love of the Lord Jesus in the little acts of kindness and the support which we have extended to each other. At each Eucharist, I and our community assembled pray for all members of the parish and most especially those who are experiencing some distress because of the pandemic.

Pope Francis, speaking recently (for World Mission Day), highlights how important it is that we all be missionaries of compassion in these times:

In these days of pandemic, when there is a temptation to disguise and justify indifference and apathy in the name of healthy social distancing, there is urgent need for the mission of compassion, which can make that necessary distancing an opportunity for encounter, care and promotion. “What we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20), the mercy we have experienced, can thus become a point of reference and a source of credibility, enabling us to recover a shared passion for building “a community of belonging and solidarity worthy of our time, our energy and our resources (Fratelli Tutti, 36)… In our present circumstances, there is an urgent need for missionaries of hope who, anointed by the Lord, can provide a prophetic reminder that no one is saved by himself.

As followers of Christ, I believe all of us should recognize that we must be missionaries of hope to one another by bearing witness to the presence of the Lord in our lives. This should mark us as members of this community of the sacrament of the presence of the Lord, the Blessed Sacrament.

In the parish bulletin for last Sunday (January 24th), I included excerpts from documents of the Vatican and of Canadian bishops about the morality of taking the covid-19 vaccine when it becomes available to us. These articles explain that the Church teaches that it is indeed moral to do so despite information to the contrary. Around the time Pope Francis and Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI were vaccinated, Francis said  “I believe that ethically everyone should take the vaccine… It is an ethical choice because you are gambling with your health, with your life, but you are also gambling with the lives of others.” While taking the vaccine is indeed a personal choice, I want to be a missionary of hope and state that each of us has a duty to protect others from infection with its danger of serious illness, and for some, death. A vaccine is the most effective way to achieve this unless one decides to self-isolate.

Since we will continue to struggle against this virus for some more months and if you feel vulnerable in any way, I urge you to stay safe. Yet if you do feel you are able to attend Mass here at your parish, you are welcome during the week at the midday 12:05 PM Eucharist without pre-registering. If you wish to attend Mass on Saturday or Sunday, please call the Parish Office in the afternoon (Tuesday to Friday) to put your name on the list.

Finally, on behalf of the Parish Pastoral and Finance Councils, I thank you for your financial support for our parish during the pandemic. Some of you are suffering financially because of the pandemic and so your continued support is even more generous. Thank you.

May the God of mercy, in our prayer with the compassionate mother Mary, continue to guide us, protect us and accompany us during this pandemic.

Peace, 

Fr. James Hentges
Administrator

Strength for this Challenging Time

O God of Infinite goodness,

We pray for your love and compassion to abound
as we walk through this challenging season.

We ask for wisdom for those who bear the load
of making decisions with widespread consequences.

We pray for those who are suffering with sickness
and all who are caring for them.

We ask for protection for the elderly and vulnerable
to not succumb to the risks of the virus.

We pray for misinformation to be curbed
that fear may take no hold in hearts and minds. 

As we exercise the good sense that you in your mercy provide,
may we also approach each day in faith and peace,
trusting in the truth of your goodness towards us.

We pray through Christ our Lord.

Archbishop’s Weekly Message: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

One of Advent’s greatest treasures, especially in the days directly leading up to Christmas, is the the ‘O antiphon’ tradition. Many who may not be acquainted directly with the O antiphons will likely know them through the verses of the much loved hymn O Come O Come Emmanuel. The O antiphons are used as antiphons for the Magnificat each of the seven days leading up to Christmas in the Catholic Church’s evening prayer, and are generally used as part of the Gospel Alleluia at Mass those days. The tradition dates back to the early Middle Ages. In more recent times, some Anglican, Lutheran and Presbyterian churches also incorporate the O antiphons in their prayer and devotional life.

Each O antiphon draws on a prophecy from Isaiah; each offers a title for the promised Messiah and expresses our longing and need for God to come into our world. The original prayers were of course written in Latin. Let’s take a look at one of them in more detail. Isaiah had prophecied, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them a light has shone” (Is. 9:2). The O antiphon begins, “O Oriens,

splendor lucis aeternae,” O Morning Star, splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness:

Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.” We know this as the verse from O Come O Come Emmanuel as follows:

O come, Thou Dayspring, from on high,

And cheer us by Thy drawing nigh;

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,

And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

Each verse of the hymn ends with the invitation:

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel.

And so the days leading up to Christmas unfold, as do the verses of the hymn, and we pray:

O come, Emmanuel, ransom us from our captivity;

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, give us victory o’er the grave;

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high – teach us in her ways to go;

O come, Desire of nations, bind all peoples in one heart and mind; bid envy, strife and quarrels cease; fill the whole world with heaven’s peace.

It is helpful that we have multiple images from the prophets for the Messiah who was to come. As Christians we have four Gospels who speak of Jesus’s life and ministry from different perspectives. The Incarnation is a vast mystery, and each prophecy gives us a language to understand something of what God desires to do for us. They tap into our own need for wisdom, for leadership and covenental love, for freedom from what binds us, light within our darkest days, for God walking with us.

St Augustine, in an ‘O’ prayer of his own, prays to God, “O Beauty ever ancient, ever new,” and that has set me to pondering how the glories of our heritage still speak to the deepest yearnings of our hearts; and that today we too are to give new expressions to those deepest yearnings within us. The Jewish roots of the prophecies bring to mind new expressions of yearnings in our day from that same tradition. I don’t know if Leonard Cohen had the O antiphons in mind when he wrote to song Come Healing, but he might have.

O solitude of longing

Where love has been confined

Come healing of the body

Come healing of the mind.

O see the darkness yielding

That tore the light apart

Come healing of the reason

Come healing of the heart.

And finally:

O let the heavens falter

And let the earth proclaim:

Come healing of the Altar

Come healing of the Name.

So here’s an invitation and a challenge, friends. As you prepare to welcome the Lord’s birth, take some time to listen to the deepest yearnings in your heart. And in the refining of prayer, see if those yearnings might take the shape of a prayer or two, your own O antiphons.

O font of mercy, O God of all grace, come be with us in this time of pandemic. Let us know your healing presence, let us see your face.

God bless.

Watch video message HERE

Archbishop’s Message for the Third Sunday of Advent

One of my earliest memories of Advent, in the little country church of St. Elizabeth’s west of Gravelbourg, was the singing of the hymn O Come, Divine Messiah. When I was seven years old, we left the farm and moved to Gravelbourg itself, where our faith life was enriched by the traditions of the majority francophone community, and I learnt that there was a French version of the hymn too, that it was originally written in French: Venez Divin Messie. On this second week of Advent, I would like to offer a few reflections on the season, with reference to this wonderful hymn.

We often say that Advent is a season of waiting, and in the midst of this pandemic, we know the experience of waiting. When we hear “O Thou whom nations sighed for,” the words resonate, for the nations today are definitely sighing. Advent invites us to set our sights on the deepest sighing of the nations, the most profound sighing in human hearts, as we sing “Come, come to earth, dispel the night and show thy face, and bid us hail the dawn of grace.” Advent waiting is active, not passive. And it is meant to teach us something, to prepare us to welcome the coming of God into our lives. John the Baptist cries out in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord. Make straight his paths. Let the valleys be raised and every mountain and hill be made low. Here on the flat prairies of Saskatchewan we are well on our way, at least from the perspective of landscape! It’s the rest of our lives that need transforming.

The hymn O Come Divine Messiah reminds us how much we need God. We know it from the mess and woundedness in our lives, and we know it from the brokenness in our world. And it prepares us to recognize and welcome God in all the ways that God comes into our lives. The last verse reminds us that God does not come in the way we would necessarily expect: Shalt come in peace and meekness, and lowly will thy cradle be: All clothed in human weakness shall we thy God-head see.

Advent is a time where we hear of God’s dream for the human race. We hear this strongly in the readings of the prophets: that people that walked in darkness will see a great light; that God is preparing a rich banquet, where all our tears will be wiped away and death will be no more; that the wolf shall live with the lamb, calf and the lion will lie down together, and all will be well on God’s holy mountain; that God will turn our swords into ploughshares, and nations shall not lift up sword against nation. These dreams of God may be hard for us to believe and trust in. In this Sunday’s second reading we hear that God does not delay in fulfilling his promises, but that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day. These Advent missives of hope and promise are like a plow that tills the furrows of our hearts, to loosen our doubts and break up the cynicism or despair that may have grown in us. We hear the dream of God in O Come, Divine Messiah too. The captive fetters will be broken, the long-lost fold redeemed; the night will be dispelled; we will hail the dawn of grace, and see God’s face. When life is full of difficulties and challenges, it is a tremendous act of courage to continue to dream God’s dream, to continue to hope, and to carry a deep joy within us.

One final thought, and one last theme in this Sunday’s readings. Both Isaiah and John the Baptist speak about the pathway of our God. In the desert, in the wilderness, prepare the way. A few years ago I had the opportunity to walk the camino in Spain, an 800 kilometre trek from St Jean Pied-de-Port in France to Santiago de Compostela. ‘Camino’ literally means ‘the way.’ On the road to Santiago, the way is marked out by yellow arrows. You need to stay vigilant, otherwise you get lost in a hurry. Each yellow arrow quietly speaks the message that we hear from Isaiah, who exhorts, “This is the way, walk in it” (Is 30:21), and Jeremiah, who relates: “Thus says the Lord: Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls” (Jer 6:16). In Advent, we are encouraged to walk the good way, to prepare the way of the Lord. But the heart of the message of the season is this: our God comes walking towards us on this path. Like a shepherd seeking out lost sheep, God comes to seek us out. There is a story in the Jewish Talmud of a king who had a son who had gone astray. The king sent a message to the son, return to your father. The son sent a message, I cannot. The king sent another message. Come as far as you can, and I will come to you the rest of the way. Our God comes to us not because we are good, or holy, or deserving, or ready. But out of love. O Come, Divine Messiah, the world in silence waits the day when hope shall sing its triumph and sadness flee away.

Watch video message HERE

Archbishop’s Message for the first week of Advent

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, dear friends,

Here we are, at the start of Advent, aware now that we are going to have to live through every liturgical season of 2020 with the restrictions and challenges of this pandemic. There is a lot of frustration in the air, with a new level of restrictions over the next 3 weeks. But also hope, with the prospect of a vaccine in the new year, and given early reports, the prospect of an ethically produced vaccine which doesn’t create a profound moral dilemma for Catholics. For this we pray.

Meanwhile, we are called to live the present moment as well as we are able; that is all that the Lord ever asks of us. A few days ago I received an insightful email from a priest friend who asked to remain anonymous, but who has given me permission to share his reflection. He wrote, “forgive me. I don’t like to say nice things about the COVID pandemic, but a thought came to me this morning: For the first time in my entire life, this Advent is really going to be Advent, a season of waiting, a season of waiting in hope and anticipation. We should probably do something, at least personally, to recognize the gift of this and remember it, because we will probably never see this again in our lifetimes. For the first time for as long as I can remember, Advent will not be ‘Christmas already’. It will not be a month of Christmas parties. It will not be a month of Christmas concerts. We won’t be able to skip over the season of waiting to jump right into Christmas celebrations on the 1st of December like we always do. We’ll have the opportunity, like never before, to actually live Advent as the gift it is, instead of glossing right over it because we just can’t wait.”

I resonated deeply with my friend’s insight. As with every year at the start of November, as we started hearing Christmas carols in stores, I think, beautiful carols, but do we need to start just yet? The pandemic and the anticipation for a vaccine has put us into a place of waiting, and the season of Advent invites us to ground our waiting in a much deeper promise, one that we can live by, one that gives us great resources for living with joy and hope while we wait.

This Advent, my little team with whom these messages are prepared thought it might be good to have an Advent message each week, centred on one of the wonderful Advent hymns in our rich tradition. It is good and right that new composers and musicians continue to produce new Advent songs for us, but let’s not lose sight of the magnificent hymns which have come to us from past generations of peoples of faith. So in each message this year, I will reflect with you on Advent in light of one of those hymns, starting with the English hymn “People Look East”.

St Paul writes that all creation is groaning in the one great act of giving birth, and Advent is a season where we listen for what is being born, what is coming. Each verse of People Look East taps into that longing. The earth is bare but already preparing for the rose. The birds are waiting and preparing: “Even the hour when wings are frozen, God for fledgling time has chosen.” The stars are keeping watch when night is dim, waiting for the coming of a great light: “shining beyond the frosty weather, bright as sun and moon together.”

And what are they waiting for? It is love that is on the way, as the end of each verse reminds us: love, the guest, is on the way; love the rose; love the bird; love the star; love, the Lord, is on the way. The first readings of our liturgies through Advent, all from the prophets, mostly from Isaiah, remind us that God is coming into our world. We are invited to live in the presence of that promise. The yearnings within us, the yearnings of all creation, were not made to go unfulfilled. We do not live and die for nothing. We were created for a purpose. God is coming, God is creating a future for us, creating a Kingdom through and with and sometimes despite us.

Finally, the hymn reminds us, like the Gospel for the first Sunday of Advent, that our lives are a space where we are to get ready for Incarnation, where we await the coming of God in the flesh by staying awake, by getting ready. “Make your house fair as you are able; trim the hearth and set the table…. Set every peak and valley humming, with the Word, the Lord is coming.”

Dear friends, let us allow this masterpiece of a hymn to call us to a place of deep hope, keenly attentive to the promises of God which surround us this season. If it is a season of darkness in our world and in our lives, let us not despair. God is in the midst of it, bringing something to birth. Of Advent, Karl Rahner writes: “What must live in you is a humble, calm joy of faithful expectancy, which does not imagine that tangibles of the present time are everything.” Brothers and sisters, let us drink deeply from the wellsprings of hope and promise which Advent proclaims.

Rich blessings!

Watch Video Message HERE

Email Sent to All Parishioners – November 28th

Dear Parishioners,

I hope that this finds all of you well.

We understand that these times are difficult for all of us and I wish to remind you that I hold all of you in my prayers, especially at our daily Masses each day. Some of you have come to Church frequently in these past months, while some of you have found it necessary to take the precaution of staying home and keeping safe. I thank all of you for thinking of your neighbour and caring for each other.

SK Health has imposed stricter guidelines for public gatherings in recent weeks because of the dramatic increase in covid-19 cases in the Province. As a result, Blessed Sacrament Parish must implement these norms for attendance at our daily and Sunday Masses. 
 
Effective immediately:
  • A maximum of 30 persons may attend each Mass.
  • Face mask must be worn at all times (from the time one enters the Church until one has exited the Church.
  • Those attending must sign in upon entering the Church.
 
Pre-registration:
  • Pre-registration is required for Saturday or Sunday Mass beginning with the weekend of December 5 & 6.
  • No pre-registration is necessary at this time for the weekday Mass at 12:05 PM.
  • You may pre-register for Saturday or Sunday Mass by contacting the Parish Office during office hours (Tuesday to Friday, 1-4 PM).
 
Note: for this weekend, Nov 28 & 29, we did not have the time to set up pre-registration, so only the first 30 persons arriving may attend this weekend.
 
As the pandemic becomes more and more serious here in Regina, I assure you that we are taking all of the necessary precautions. When even stricter health guidelines are imposed, be assured that we will follow them closely here at all times.
 
Disinfecting and Sanitizing the Church

  • We have been very diligent in preparing and maintaining our parish church in this pandemic. Each day before Mass, Simon, our caretaker, thoroughly disinfects the entire area for the congregation in the church. This process involves spraying the pews from a pump spray and then wiping down the pew surface. Additionally, many of you have been using sprayers to wet surfaces and cloths to wipe the surfaces down.
  • Recently, we obtained better disinfecting equipment and started using a process which will disinfect/sanitize the church more effectively.We now have a handheld battery operated electrostatic ULV sprayer which will disperse a disinfectant which covers the surfaces and kills those airborne viruses. This sprayer not only is for disinfection of the surfaces, but also for purifying the air. We have also moved to a disinfectant which will be less damaging to hard surfaces (e.g. pews).

Advent and Christmas
During these seasons:

• We will schedule some opportunities for those who wish to receive the Sacrament of the Sick – Anointing of the Sick. On Tuesdays, December 8th and 22nd, anointing of the sick will be available after the 12:05 PM Mass. Pre-registration will be required for these Masses and the anointing.
• Communal Penance Services will be scheduled at 5:10 PM on Tuesday, December 15th and 22nd. Pre-registration will be required for these services.
Since the situation of the pandemic at Christmas time is still uncertain, we will announce a schedule later in December. But we will try to accommodate all parishioners who wish to attend in person.
 
Live/Recorded Streaming of Mass
We are working diligently to provide a daily streaming of Mass from Blessed Sacrament. We hopefully will be streaming on a variety of platforms. For now, watch our YouTube channel or go to our parish website for the link to the streaming when available. Coming Soon!
 

Finally, I urge you to check in on our Blessed Sacrament website throughout this period for updates and also to obtain the weekly Parish Bulletin.

Thank you for your support for our Church and for being part of our Blessed Sacrament family.

May the Lord be with you always and His gracious peace remain in your hearts,

Fr. Jim

————————– 
Blessed Sacrament Parish
2049 Scarth Street
Regina SK S4P 2H5

Cell: +1 306.351.3064
Email: pastor.bsacrament@sasktel.net

Archbishop’s Message on Christ the King!

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Warm greetings and good wishes of perseverance and hope at this difficult time, when the number of active cases in Saskatchewan have risen dramatically. For many, in the past two weeks, including myself, the pandemic has become real in a new way, as family members, friends, or people we know well have tested positive, are in ICU, or have died. We lift all those who have died and their loved ones, all who have tested positive for Covid and their families, in fervent prayer before the Risen Lord.

As you know, new restrictions have been put in place regarding mask usage, affecting all the parishes of the Archdiocese. The Saskatchewan Health Authority and provincial government have not imposed further restrictive steps on faith communities at this time, but have continued their conversation with faith leaders, and have let us know that there are cases of the virus having spread in worship settings in the province. They have not moved to lockdown, but have arranged a series of urgent meetings, asking what we can do and what we would recommend so that we mitigate risks, encourage adherence to the directives, and reduce movement and duration during worship services. I am grateful for the spirit of consultation which is now prevailing.

As we approach the great feast of Christ the King, I am reminded of all the places in which we are called to allow Christ to be our King: our hearts, wills, societies, the world around us. When the feast was instituted by Pope Pius XI, he wanted to invite the faithful to participate in the challenges and struggles of the societies in which they lived, but to do so mindful of a higher authority. Political structures have a rightful place in our lives, but also limits, and our ultimate authority is Christ the King. When the re-open Saskatchewan plan was first announced in late April and there was no mention of religious groups and how they would be able to safely gather, we joined with faith leaders from across the province to approach our Premier with the hope of beginning a dialogue about the importance of religious gatherings. As Catholics and citizens, we recognize that civic and health authorities have an important role to play, but we also wanted them to hear what faith communities could provide to our society at a time of deep struggle, in terms of hope, of maintaining a safe environment, and of caring for the vulnerable. The fruits which have come from these dialogues and deeper relationships are most evident in the greater numbers that our spaces are allowed than other public gatherings. While more changes are likely to come, it is helpful to remember the words of Pope Pius XI in the encyclical which instituted the feast: “there seems no reason why we should despair of seeing that peace which the King of Peace came to bring on earth – he who came to reconcile all things, who came not to be ministered unto but to minister, who, though Lord of all, gave himself to us as a model of humility, and with his principal law united the precept of charity” (20).

This year on the feast of Christ the King, we will hear the powerful words of Matthew 25 and Jesus’s parable of the last judgement. Jesus our king gives us a word, a word to live by, a difficult and challenging word. The word comes in the form of a question, the last question we are ever likely to hear. The parable tells us that at the end of time, when death is conquered and God is all in all, when we stand before the risen Lord, he will ask: when I was hungry, did you give me food? When I was thirsty, did you give me something to drink? When I was sick, or in prison, did you visit me? When I was a stranger, did you welcome me? The Incarnate Word identifies himself with those in greatest need, and tells us that we encounter him there, in what Mother Teresa refers to as Christ in his most distressing disguise.

The questions ought to make us restless, uncomfortable. They are not new; we know them, we have heard them before. Indeed if we listen closely, we hear them being asked to us daily in a thousand different ways. Sometimes it’s a beggar on the street who asks them to us; sometimes it is a victim of clergy sexual abuse who wants to be heard and respected. Sometimes it is an Indigenous brother or sister who needs help, and sometimes it’s a family member or neighbour who is struggling. Sometimes it is the unborn or those at the end of life who are pushed aside, and sometimes it’s a saint, like John Chrysostom, who reminds us that an afflicted sister or brother is “the most precious temple of all.” Sometimes it’s Pope Francis, who tells us he prefers a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, and sometimes it’s a critic of the church, who points out our lack of integrity.

As we prepare to celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, let us renew our commitment to love and welcome the Lord in all the ways he comes to us. Let us participate in our civic life, work with our elected officials and health authorities, and do all we can to protect the vulnerable. And in all that, let us be guided above all by the Lord, who immerses himself in the sufferings and struggles of humanity and asks us to love and serve him there: Christ our King.

Watch Video Message HERE

Regarding Changes to COVID Protocols Affecting Mass Attendance in Regina

From the Archdiocese of Regina:

As announced earlier this week, a new SHA health order has increased certain COVID-19 restrictions. Effective Friday, November 6, 2020, these restrictions include mandatory use of non-medical masks in all indoor public spaces in Regina, Saskatoon, and P.A. This includes at our celebration of the Mass and all other parish gatherings. All persons attending all parish events within the city of Regina are required to wear non-medical face masks from the time they enter the building until they have exited the building.

For communion, the people should leave their mask on when they come forward, receive communion in whichever way your parish has determined, step to the side, slip the mask up, down, or to the side, consume the host, replace the mask and continue back to the pew.

Changes to gathering sizes included in this health order do not affect the Mass, weddings, funerals, or other religious gatherings at public places of worship. These continue to fall under the protocols found within the Saskatchewan Re-open Plan.

https://www.saskatchewan.ca/government/health-care-administration-and-provider-resources/treatment-procedures-and-guidelines/emerging-public-health-issues/2019-novel-coronavirus/re-open-saskatchewan-plan/guidelines/places-of-worship-guidelines

Archbishop Don’s Weekly Message

Archbishop Don’s Message on Patience

In his letter to the Romans (5:1-5), St Paul speaks a word we need to hear, about endurance, about patience. He notes that “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” When I gathered with my little drafting group to prepare this message, the consensus was that I should speak about patience. It has probably never been easy to live with a deep patience, but it seems particularly difficult today to show patience.

The pandemic is demanding an incredible patience from us, and it is exhausting us.
So many people are experiencing fatigue from the pandemic. One of my confreres said recently, passionately, “I am so sick of Covid.” So many of us are tired of restrictions, tired of masks, tired of not being able to do so many things in a normal way. Yet no matter how frustrated we get, Covid 19 continues to surge around the world, and here in Saskatchewan there has been a big spike in cases. Caring for and protecting the most vulnerable among us requires patient endurance. Looking after our own mental, physical, and spiritual health and provide encouragement and support to others suffering from exhaustion and stress requires patient endurance.

Patience is especially difficult in an age of social media, and in an age of polarization. We see something we disagree with and we respond, we express our frustration. The opportunity that we have in face to face encounters, to say “am I hearing you correctly,” or “what do you mean by that,” or “have you considered this perspective,” those are often absent in social media. And the more controversial or dramatic our statements, the more likely we are to get hits, to have people pay attention to us. But the result is often polarization instead of dialogue, misrepresentation instead of understanding. One friend put it this way for me: patience is “an antidote to the driving force to act with immediacy and respond with urgency and view every situation within the virtual world as though it was the end of all worlds.”

As a people of faith, however, we are encouraged to ask “what is God’s way?” And while there are times when God acts with urgency and decisiveness, salvation history and even modern science suggest that God generally acts with incredible patience. If the universe is almost 14 billion years old, it is instructive that God waited almost 10 billion years before creating the earth, and another 4 ½ billion years before sending a Messiah. When God becomes incarnate in Jesus, it was not the fastest way to communicate or show us the face of God. Mary was pregnant with Jesus for nine months. Jesus waited 30 years for ministry. Just before his public ministry began, he spent 40 days in the desert. He patiently walked with the disciples as they struggled to understand who he was, and how God was loving us into redemption. St Paul exhorts us, “let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5). I am thinking of Star Trek’s ‘mind meld,’ which passes everything in one mind into the brain of another. God could have done it that way, but didn’t. Instead he showed us the slow and excruciating way of giving everything, unto death on the cross. After the resurrection, the Risen Jesus only met sporadically with His apostles and other disciples. The paschal mystery, the sending of the Holy Spirit, come in God’s time, as does clarity in the teaching of the church. God is incredibly patient. And of course each of us has the personal witness of God’s great patience with us, for often, mercy takes the shape of a patience that endures.

Friends, we are about to celebrate the great feasts of All Saints and All Souls. The first shows us many paths to holiness, many ways of adapting one’s life to do it God’s way. The second, All Souls, invites us to ponder those who have gone before us, especially those we have loved, who have died. In the face of death, in the face of God’s promise to transform us, to bring us to new life, the only posture that is open to us is patient trust in the great mercy of God.

So next time you find yourself fretting, full of anxiety, or frustrated or bursting with annoyance, remember and put your trust in the slow working of God, the patient and persevering way of God with us, and try to do it God’s way, relying on God’s patience, and showing that patience to others. Rich blessings along the way. 

Watch Here

Regina Catholic School Board Trustees: Who’s Running

The Civic Election, including that of Catholic School  Trustees,  will take place on November 9th this year.  Because of the difficulties associated with face to face contact and personal conversations during campaigning, we are assisting the candidates through our electronic communications platforms.

This link provides profiles of all candidates.

You may also view video profiles of each candidate here.  

Please familiarize yourselves with the candidates and please be sure to Vote to elect the next Board of Trustees for our Regina Catholic Schools.

The Civic Election, including that of Catholic School Trustees, will take place on November 9th this year

The Civic Election, including that of Catholic School Trustees, will take place on November 9th this year. Because of the difficulties associated with face to face contact and personal conversations during campaigning, we will be assisting the candidates through our electronic communications platforms.

You will find profiles and photos of all the candidates for the position of Trustee posted on our Parish website beginning this week. Their materials will also be available on the websites of the Archdiocese, Regina Catholic Schools and the City of Regina.

Please familiarize yourselves with the candidates and please be sure to Vote to elect the next Board of Trustees for our Regina Catholic Schools.

Archbishop’s Message on Faith and Political Engagement

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ of the Archdiocese of Regina,

In the coming days, the people of Saskatchewan will be going to the polls for both provincial and municipal elections. As you know, Catholics are called to be engaged citizens, and to participate in the electoral process as able, using every opportunity to serve the integral promotion of the human person and the common good. We are all aware of unhealthy developments in our democracy and in the erosion of public discourse about meaningful issues. A few days ago I sat down with a few colleagues to reflect on how we bring our faith to bear in the way we approach the election. These reflections are a result of that conversation.

The first thing we did was to attend to Pope Francis’s new Encyclical on human fraternity, Fratelli tutti, and on the fifth chapter, on “A better kind of politics.” Pope Francis observes that “for many people today, politics is a distasteful word” (176), but insists that it needn’t be so. Our current needs globally and in each nation call for “a better kind of politics, one truly at the service of the common good” (154), one “capable of reforming and coordinating institutions” (177), upholding the dignity of the human person, and putting social love at the forefront rather than economics. Love is not only personal and devotional; it has a civic and political dimension (181). It is an act of love, for instance, “to strive to organize and structure society so that one’s neighbour will not find himself in poverty…. If someone helps an elderly person cross a river, that is a fine act of charity. The politician, on the other hand, builds a bridge, and that too is an act of charity” (186).

Pope Francis offers challenging words to those engaged in politics, noting: “politics is something more noble than posturing, marketing and media spin… we do well to ask ourselves, ‘Why I am doing this?’, ‘What is my real aim?’ For as time goes on, reflecting on the past, the questions will not be: ‘How many people endorsed me?’, ‘How many voted for me?’… The real, and potentially painful, questions will be, ‘How much love did I put into my work?’ ‘How much social peace did I sow?’ ‘What good did I achieve in the position that was entrusted to me?’” (197).

Asking hard questions isn’t reserved for political candidates. At a time of polarization and hardening of political lines, it is also important to think about how we participate in the political process, and to recognize the ways in which our political engagement shapes both our own spiritual health and that of our communities. In addition to carefully studying how our Catholic values are or are not represented in the various party platforms, we need to also attend carefully to the impact that politics has on our souls. Do we find that our engagement with our neighbours who might not share our political commitments builds up our capacity to engage in rigorous but respectful dialogue, our willingness to work together for the common good? Do we ever find it difficult to imagine that a good person might come to a different political conclusion than we do? If we are honest before God in prayer, do we find ourselves more or less charitable, or patient, or honest, or generous, because of our political activities and commitments? As Catholics, we should recognize that the health of our society depends more on our own and our community’s growth in virtue than on who wins the next election. So I invite us all to consider that an election is not merely a matter of deciding who to vote for, but a way in which we grow or fail in virtue, a way to build up or tear down our communities.

With the forthcoming provincial election in mind, the Saskatchewan Bishops have approved a non-partisan resource for voters in our province, in collaboration with an organization called Catholic Conscience. We have set up a website, https://catholicconscience.org/saskatchewan2020/ , which “offers voters an opportunity to ensure that Saskatchewan is guided by leaders who will provide practical and efficient leadership with the good of all in mind – including the unborn, the elderly, the young, families, and those who are too often forgotten by society – as well as workers, farmers, business owners, and all future generations.” The website provides a range of information to assist with your discernment, and most notably, a chart which identifies various aspects of Catholic social and moral teaching, and provides the statements from the platforms of the parties running in the forthcoming election. Political parties have been approached and invited to update or provide new information so that anyone using the website will have as comprehensive information as possible. We are immensely grateful to be able to work with “Catholic Conscience,” and hope that you will find this website helpful.

The Catholic voting process always involves informing ourselves about the teachings of the Church and issues relevant to the election, and looking at what our voting options are. Once the election is over, we are also encouraged to stay actively and respectfully engaged with those who have been elected – whether they are our own preferred candidates or not.

Finally, we are encouraged to bring our own discernment, and those running for office, to prayer. Let’s conclude this reflection in prayer:

Lord, Father of our human family,
Your Son Jesus taught us in the Parable of the Good Samaritan
that each of us is called to care for our brothers and sisters
without concern for our differences or what divides us.

Pour your spirit out upon each and every one of us:
Give us, and all involved in the forthcoming election,
a spirit of humility, to acknowledge our failures,
a spirit of gratitude for each of the gifts that you have given us,
a spirit of wisdom, to guide our actions in accordance with your teaching.
a spirit of fraternity so that we might have concern for the most vulnerable,
and a spirit of love, so that we might abide even more fully in you.

O God, Trinity of Love, from the profound communion of your divine life,
grant each and every one of us a deeper sense of unity.
Give to us a desire to sacrifice ourselves for our brothers and sisters.
Help us live like your family did, with simplicity in Nazareth
and as the early Christian community did, whose charity spread throughout the world.
O Good Shepherd, Christ the King,
you are our guide.
Continue to guide us, then, to your will
in this, and in every moment of our lives.

Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us.
St Joseph, pray for us.
St Joan of Arc, pray for us.
St Juan Diego Cuahtaltoatzin, pray for us.
St Kateri Tekakwitha, pray for us.

Archbishop Don’s Weekly Message – Watch HERE