A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Posts Tagged ‘peace

Tomorrow Canada marks 147 years since Confederation.

Our plans for the day aren’t set yet. Maybe we’ll hit a local park to take part in some Canada Day festivities. Maybe I’ll grill something for dinner, since this past weekend I finally asked my husband to teach me how to use the gas barbecue. Maybe this will even be the year we take in the fireworks on Parliament Hill.

No matter how low-key our celebrations—wearing head-to-toe red and white or painting my face just isn’t my thing—we’re proud and happy to be Canadian.

Not to mention thankful.

grandmother

My grandmother who immigrated to Canada from Denmark in the 1950s

I’m thankful for the courage my immigrant ancestors showed in making the journey to Canada to start a new life. And as I’ve read about the conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Ukraine and other countries around the world,  I’m thankful for the peace and the freedoms we enjoy here, including the freedom to choose where we live, which faith we practise, and which candidates we’ll vote for—not a thing to take for granted with a provincial election this month, a municipal election in the fall, and a federal election next year.

I’m thankful that this country welcomes people from many countries and ethnicities, since that wasn’t always true.

And I’m thankful for the opportunities we have to maintain and share our cultural heritage but still be Canadians with equal standing.

But as citizens with a duty “to contribute along with the civil authorities to the good of society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity and freedom” (s. 2239 of the Catechism), we can work to make this country an even better place to live in.

I pray that God would help us appreciate the country we have and guide us in building a society that better reflects our faith—one that works to reduce poverty, protect the unborn, care for the terminally ill, restore the environment, and look after those in need.

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The past few weeks have been packed with activity. Besides the regular routine, I took my son to a couple of appointments and a confirmation class, wrapped Christmas presents, stocked up on household staples for the holidays, and prepared for a music recital and a taekwon-do test. It’s been busy rather than stressful.

On Friday, I was feeling proud of myself for everything I’d accomplished: vacuuming, floor cleaning and snow shovelling, on top of my everyday chores. I was patting myself on the back…and then I remembered that God created light on the first day (see Genesis 1). It was a healthy dose of perspective!

The ridiculous thing is that I didn’t need to get all those things done that day. And I could have asked for more help from my son, even if it might have been given reluctantly.

Today, as I braved the crowds to get groceries and run a couple of errands, I needed this reminder once more:

Learn to let others do their share of the work. Things may be done less well, but you will have more peace of soul and health of body. And what temporal interest should we not sacrifice in order to gain these blessings?

~ St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, quoted in “Celebrate November 2013,” Catholic Digest

How often do we insist on wrapping Christmas presents and sending out cards ourselves because no one will do these tasks the same way we do? Or how about folding the laundry, loading the dishwasher or cooking meals? Do we wear ourselves out so chores are done “the right way,” or do we allow other people to bless us with their help?

If we still hesitate to share the load, we may need another reminder not to run ourselves ragged at the expense of our physical and spiritual health, this time from Sirach 30:15-16*:

Health and soundness are better than all gold,

and a robust body than countless riches.

There is no wealth better than health of body,

and there is no gladness above joy of heart.

As we carry out our last-minute chores, cleaning and Christmas preparations, may we acknowledge that our celebration need not be perfect—it needs to be focussed on celebrating our Saviour’s birth and on sharing God’s love with our loved ones, friends and neighbours. And may we carry with us into the year ahead the knowledge that we can accept others’ help.

Speaking of the new year, I’m taking a short break from this blog to spend more time with my family over the holidays, but I’ll be back on January 2nd!

(*Scripture quote taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

Those who are sworn to serve their country in the armed forces are servants of the security and freedom of nations. If they carry out their duty honourably, they truly contribute to the common good of the nation and the maintenance of peace.

– s. 2310 of the Catechism

My mother told me that her father never talked about World War II. He passed away a couple of months before I turned five, when I was far too young to be curious about the war.

But as a teenager, I came across a journal his brother had kept and sent home to their mother about one of the biggest air raids on London in April 1941. It ends with these words:

“God grant this war will come to an end soon and not in vain and bring all sufferings, hardships, broken hearts and tears to an end. I hope and pray that by this struggle we will benefit and eternal peace throughout the world for generations to come.”

We know that, sadly, peace didn’t last for generations. I think of conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, Iran and Iraq, Yugoslavia and Rwanda, to name a few. But while we long for peace, I pray that we would not forget the sacrifices of those who have fought to defend our freedoms and those who have given their lives for this goal.

As a “service brat,” the daughter of an air force pilot, the issue of respect for those serving in the military hits close to home for me. It angers me to read about soldiers being discharged from the military before they can qualify for a pension or not receiving the treatment they need for post-traumatic stress disorder. It upsets me to hear people disparage the work of our military in peacetime when these men and women provide vital help in the event of disasters and in search and rescue efforts. I pray that our society would honour these people for their service and care for them when they return from duty injured in body, mind or spirit.

And I pray that we would support the families who keep things running at home while they anxiously await for their loved ones’ tours to end, and those who are left to mourn when tragedy strikes.

Lest we forget. N’oublions jamais.

For information on support available for those who serve and their families, see the websites for the Veterans Ombudsman, the Royal Canadian Legion, Military Families Resource Centres and the True Patriot Love Foundation.

When I was nearly nine years old, my father was transferred to another military base, and so my family moved from Vancouver Island to southern Ontario. I missed the sounds and smell of the ocean, but I also missed the mountains. It took me a while to get used to seeing rolling hills instead.

Why are people so fascinated by mountains? We photograph them, paint them, and race to be the first to climb them. Perhaps it’s because these natural wonders are grander and more breathtaking than anything we could build.

The Bible refers many times to mountains, including the mountains of Ararat, where Noah’s ark came to rest (see Genesis 8:4); Mount Nebo, where God showed Moses the Promised Land (see Deuteronomy 34:1-4); and the Mount of Olives, from which Jesus rode into Jerusalem (see Matthew 21:1-11).

Regardless of their elevation or the view from the peak, mountains seem to symbolize endurance, and this is reflected in Psalm 125:1-2:

Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion,

which cannot be moved, but abides for ever.

As the mountains are round about Jerusalem,

so the LORD is round about his people,

from this time forth and for evermore.

(Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition)

The psalmist reminds us that faith in God will ground us and that the Lord lovingly protects and guards us—something it can be a comfort to know when everything from technology to standards of morality seems to shift overnight.

Sadly, many people are unaware of or have even forgotten the message of these verses. While the results of Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey may not be decisive, simple observation tells us that our culture is increasingly secular. For example, parks, golf courses and shopping centres tend to be busier than churches on a Sunday morning.

Yet the fact that so many people consider themselves “spiritual,” if not “religious,” shows that there is a hunger for the kind of peace and strength they could find only through faith.

I pray that those who are looking in the wrong places for that peace and strength would open their hearts to God and bring their cares to him.

And with Victoria Day weekend on the way, I pray that everyone would get lots of yard work done (if there’s no more frost here) and enjoy the fireworks. And please stay safe: don’t drink and drive—or text and drive.

Yesterday my husband and I took my son to the Canadian War Museum to visit the galleries we’d missed on our visit last summer.

I live in a place that is peaceful by most people’s standards, but as I looked at the displays about war and peacekeeping, it struck me just how many conflicts the world has seen in my lifetime. In an age of instant communication and fast travel, these conflicts only seem to be a world away. So many disputes over land, religion and ethnicity translate into untold numbers of people who may have peace where they live, but not in their hearts.

We all long for the kind of peace only God can give. Think about the words of the apostle Paul in Philippians 4:6-7*:

Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Even though Jesus tells us not to be anxious (see Luke 12:22-34), I tend to worry, but at least when I’m struggling with decisions or fears or loss, I can take comfort in knowing God sees and hears me. But what about those who don’t even have this comfort because they don’t know God? How can we help them learn about his peace? Here are just a few suggestions:

  • Pray for people who don’t know God or who have walked away from their faith, that God would open their hearts.
  • Read Brian O’Neel’s article “My Child, The Atheist” in the April 2013 issue of Catholic Digest to learn more about why people become atheists and how to share your faith with them.
  • Pray for more people to share the good news as priests and religious, especially as we mark the World Day of Prayer for Vocations next Sunday.
  • Support and encourage seminarians in your diocese.
  • Donate to the Canadian Bible Society to help fund the translation of the Bible into languages that only have a portion of the Bible (or none at all) and to provide bibles to soldiers, prisoners, and people in various parts of the world who can’t afford a copy of their own.

Let’s take heart from Jesus’ words to the disciples in John 14:27:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

(*Quotes from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

The turkey dinner, presents and Christmas Day itself are now a happy memory. But the best part of the day was the peace.

Yes, everything was hushed in our neighbourhood—no traffic sounds, barking dogs or even shovels clearing the latest snowfall—since people were spending the day with their families instead of rushing off to work or go shopping. But I don’t mean peace and quiet. I mean the sense of peace that comes only at Christmas.

Christmas has always been my favourite time of year. I spend time with my family and we enjoy just being together, rather than running errands, nagging about chores, hurrying to make appointments, or dealing with the day-to-day. We’re at peace with one another and home is somehow happier.

In the community, people tend to be kinder and more generous to their neighbours and charities than at other times of the year. And more people attend church at Christmas to enjoy that sense of peace. My parish church was standing room only, both in the nave and in the church hall.

I wish every day could be like Christmas. Not for the presents, the preparations or the food, but that spirit of goodwill. I think that’s why many of us suffer from the “January blahs.” Read the rest of this entry »


Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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