Assumed into Heaven

On the 15th of August, Catholics celebrate the Feast Day of the Assumption of Mary in honour of Mary’s bodily taking up into heaven.

The site in the Holy Land connected with this event is the Dormition Abbey. Here’s a two-minute video explaining this teaching and showing the church connected with this spiritual heritage.

It’s interesting to read that almost all major world religions believe that there are some people who entered heaven alive or were bodily assumed into heaven.

It is also interesting to consider the significance of this belief appearing across traditions, as well as its meaning for theology and anthropology.

Vocation Grasped in Retrospect

Today is the feast day of St. Edith Stein, a Jewish-Catholic saint and martyr born one century before me and to whom I have special devotion and affection.

In fact, I even spent one month a few years ago living in her former childhood home in Wroclaw, Poland (formerly Breslau, Germany).

Edith Stein was a German Jewish philosopher who became a Catholic nun and patron saint of Europe. Martyred in the Holocaust, she has been on my mind as I reflect on the meaning of vocation.

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#IamWithYouAlways

Pope Francis has initiated a World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly which was held this year on Sunday, July 25th with the theme, “I am with you always” (Mt 28:20).

Speaking about the day, His Eminence Cardinal Kevin Farrell said, “The World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly is a celebration. We really needed it: after such a difficult year we truly need to celebrate, grandparents and grandchildren, young and old. ‘We should celebrate and rejoice’ says the Father in the parable. A new page opens after dramatic months of difficulty. Pope Francia invites us to take a step further, he speaks to us of tenderness. Tenderness towards the elderly is needed because, as the Holy Father recalls in the message we present to you today, the Virus ‘has been much harsher with them’. For this reason, the Pope hopes that an angel will visit, and will come down to console them in their solitude, and he imagines that this angel looks like a young person who visits an elderly person.”

Dr. Vittorio Scelzo added, “In these days we will launch a social campaign and invite everyone – especially the younger people – to tell about the visits and initiatives that will develop using the hashtag #IamWithYouAlways.”

Below are some of the kinds of tweets I found when searching this hashtag. It is wonderful to see this civilizing initiative of valuing the elderly more profoundly.

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Initial hypothesis about resurrection

After nearly 200 days of blogging about death every day, where is this leading?

I find myself becoming fascinated and absorbed by the topic of the resurrection of the dead.

As a friend remarked to me the other day, this is one of the most fundamental beliefs underlying our civilization and yet, it is a teaching about which most people are, if they are being honest about it, rather incredulous or indifferent.

My very preliminary hypothesis is that belief in resurrection is subliminally decisive to how we live and that it has wide-ranging implications in ethics, technology, and culture.

To play with these ideas, we can ask: What difference does it make whether or not we believe in a resurrection of the dead? What are the practical consequences in our lives of its possibility or impossibility?

Another question: If people believed in the resurrection of the body, what would it change in our public bioethics?

I do not yet have many answers to propose. However, my first intuition is that the precariousness of our embodiedness needs redemption.

Whether this redemption is possible and whether we stake (or mistake) our hope about it in the correct place is, I think, a more interesting and practical question than many realize.

This Is What Indigenous-Catholic Reconciliation Looks Like

The other day, my friend Ada and I were discussing the discovery of Indigenous children’s undocumented remains outside of the former residential school in Kamloops.

Ada is passionate about the Arctic and through her studies, research, and work is involved in cooperating with Inuit in the north with sensitivity, respect, and mutuality.

I could tell the news had shaken her and so I asked whether she had ever been to a First Nations cemetery.

“Yes, twice,” she said.

It was 2018 and Ada had just completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Victoria. As a member of the Catholic Students’ Association, she joined four other students, led by university chaplain, former Anglican-turned-Catholic priest, Fr. Dean Henderson, on a cultural mission exchange to a First Nations reserve in British Columbia.

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What does it mean to follow an exemplar?

The very interesting philosopher, Max Scheler, died on this date in 1928. He was a prominent influence in ethics, phenomenology, and personalism. He had an eclectic trajectory involving his German Jewish background, his youthful interest in Nietzsche and Marx, his gradual embrace of Catholicism, and his eventual distancing from the Church.

Scheler was quite interesting and imaginative and the impression he made on twentieth century thought is detectable, particularly in many Jewish and Catholic thinkers who address such topics as shame, resentment, and values.

Today I was returning to his book Person and Self-Value and, in particular, to the third section on “Exemplars of Persons and Leaders” in which he reflects on the question of what is actually meant by following an exemplar:

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“Don’t Wait to Honour Your Mother”

This Mother’s Day Weekend, I attended mass in a church parking lot listening to Fr. Ken speak over radio from an Outdoor Chapel that was built by the Knights of Columbus.

My friend and I – as I’m sure is true of all parishioners – were saddened to hear from Fr. Ken that both his mother and father passed away earlier in the week due to COVID complications they suffered in the Philippines.

During the homily, Fr. Ken spoke a bit about his parents in connection to the Gospel and to Mother’s Day.

First, he spoke about how he is surprised by many of the memories being shared about his parents.

While his father was the friendly extrovert, his mother had been more discreet and introverted.

And so, Fr. Ken was not surprised with what people have been saying about his father but when it comes to his mother, he said he is hearing all of these new stories about her hidden generosity and thoughtfulness from so many people that he had not known she had touched.

Fr. Ken spoke about how his parents made a great team. His mother was good at business and sales and his father was good at networking and PR.

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Unflinching from the sacrifice

I’m thankful to a friend who reminded me that today is the feast day of St. Gianna Beretta Molla and who, accordingly, suggested that I devote today’s post to her.

Gianna was an Italian Catholic pediatrician and mother of four. She is known for refusing life-saving medical interventions that would have resulted in the death of her fourth child with whom she was pregnant at the time.

While it would have been morally licit for her to opt for the interventions in an attempt to save her own life, since the loss of her child would have been wholly unintended and inadvertent, Gianna was willing to die in order that her unborn child might live.

How someone comes to such a decision with faith and courage is almost never momentary happenstance. As John Paul II put it– that Gianna knew how to offer her life as a sacrifice was the crowning of an exemplary existence.

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Where are your wounds?

Thanks to a dear friend of mine who recommended this fantastic episode of The Rubin Report in which David Rubin speaks with Bishop Robert Barron and Rabbi David Wolpe about what Easter and Passover teach us about freedom and hope.

I am equally recommending the episode and could not be more impressed by the quality of Jewish-Catholic relations presented in this cordial and substantive conversation.

In the course of the discussion, Rabbi Wolpe says, “This South African author, Alan Paton, has a beautiful scene in one of his novels about a guy who goes to heaven and he comes before God and God says, ‘Where are your wounds?’ And he says, ‘I don’t have any wounds.’ And God says, ‘Why? Was there nothing worth fighting for?'”

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Do you have something you need to do?

This evening I heard a physician, who is also a Roman Catholic deacon, share a story about a dying woman to whom he would bring Communion.

The 50-year-old woman had uterine cancer that had metastasized into her spine and, understanding the gravity of her condition, he found himself surprised that she was still alive each time he went to visit her.

Eventually, he decided to ask her, “Do you have something you need to do?”

This question invited an response and she answered, “Yes, I do. I need to become a Canadian citizen.”

It turns out that this woman was very close to finalizing her citizenship and needed to do so in order for her children to receive their citizenship and avoid deportation back to Hong Kong.

On hearing this, the physician-deacon phoned a citizenship judge friend of his and explained the situation. When the citizenship judge heard the request, he agreed to meet the woman the next day so that she could swear the oath.

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